In “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost pays tribute to the tantalizing possibilities presented by each of 2 diverging roads – and the consequences of having to choose just one. Decision-making can be a bit like that, can’t it? Making one choice means forgoing another.
Choices are often driven by the questions asked – or unasked. History is rife with examples of the consequences of the unasked – or unacknowledged – question. What affect might unusually low temperatures have on space shuttle equipment? What is our backup plan if the unsinkable ship actually sinks? What evidence do we have that consumers want a new Coke taste?
But asking the otherwise unasked question can be punishing. We risk having our questions misinterpreted as “negative”. When people are determined to make a certain choice, they rarely welcome anyone questioning its validity. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do. The next time you are assessing a possible choice, try one or more of the following:
- What evidence do we have that we need to do something different?
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- What other options have we considered?”.
- What can go wrong?
- How will we tell if we have been successful?”
These are all great questions which can elevate the quality of decision-making – and its outcomes. And remember: the next time someone asks you a tough question, they may just be unwittingly throwing you a lifeline. Embrace the tough question – and go ahead and ask it.