There is a saying in the creative industry that ‘a briefing is what a client thinks is the solution to what they think is the problem’. All too often there is a different problem that needs to be addressed and therefore there needs to be a very different solution offered. So after having worked in the creative industries for many years, I have learned that often the most important part of a creative process is getting the briefing right. For it is the briefing that sets the expectations of the process, the limits of perceptions, and the underlying assumptions. The briefing is what asks the question.
Getting this question right is often half the work.
Answers are Static
We seem to be more comfortable with answers than questions. And I have seen all too often managers rush to find an answer as a way back into their comfort zone and in the process limit their impact and innovation. Answers can give a sense of false control and encourage a topic to be closed. When an answer is found, the process of thinking often stops. In this sense answers are static.
Additionally, it is a misconception to think that the answers we have today will answer the questions of tomorrow. There is a limit to the scope of the answers we currently have. Rather than seeking more and more answers, I would encourage the skill of asking better questions. Indeed, in our process of life-long- learning the driving skill is the ability to ask questions, not the gathering of answers along the way.
Questions are Dynamic
Questions are initiators, they are pathfinders, they open, and they lead. Questions are dynamic in nature. And I believe that the skill of asking questions makes our minds more creative, flexible, and ready to embrace new forms of strategy, innovations, and behavior. Indeed, I believe the culture of a brand is defined by the questions it asks.
However, it is important to note that there are different qualities to questions. Questions that are closed can be as limiting as finding an answer. A better question is an open question that creates space for new possibilities. Indeed the best question creates new questions.
To develop the skill of questioning start by holding a question in your mind that you do not know the answer to. And become comfortable with that. Your goal is to hold the question, not answer it. Next start developing the skill to initiate questions, rather than waiting for questions to be given to you. The art of questioning is best a proactive process.
An answer is represented with a static point, while a question is visualized as a dynamic circle. The circle however does not mean that to ask questions is to think in circles, but rather in asking questions we revisit what we have always seen and to see it in a new light.
“Perhaps the most important quality of leadership is the ability to ask the right question. Rather than focusing on just finding answers, instead what is often more powerful is finding the right question. And I believe at the heart of every great brand is a great question.”
The Brand Question
Most brands have a Brand Vision, perhaps with the above insights it is now more interesting to have a Brand Question. I believe at the heart of every great brand is a great question. This question is never answered, but rather it is held in the mind of everyone as a guide, a source of inspiration, and an aspirational goal.
What then is the question at the heart of your brand?