August  2009     Edition 52
Ask "What else?"

During our school years

we take thousands of tests.  Many of these consist of multiple choices, where there is one correct answer and 3 incorrect answers.  We’re taught to choose the right answer and quickly move on to the next question.

Business is different.

  There are often multiple “correct” answers, some better than others, but few “right” or “wrong”.   However, once we find an answer that seems to fit, our tendency will be to accept that and move on.   For minor issues, with low impact ramifications, finding an answer and moving on is often the prudent thing to do.  However, for a problem or situation that has significant downstream consequences, you don’t necessarily want to stop at the first idea.

Ask “What else?”.

  Once someone comes up with an idea, follow that idea and flush it out.  Then after you have a good handle on this answer, ask, “What else?”   Encourage thinking to continue and come up with other ideas.   Ask:

What else can cause this? 
What else can you think of that could solve this? 
What else comes to mind?  
What else have others thought about? 
What else have others implemented?   
What else might happen? 
What else should we consider?

Variations of “What else?”

include “Where else”, “How else”, “Who else” and “When else?”

"Where else?”

Where else can you find information? 
Where else might you see that symptom

Where else have you seen this issue?

“How else?”

How else can you construct that? 
How else can that be viewed? 
How else can you accomplish that?

“Who else?”

Who else should be involved? 
Who else would have additional information? 
Who else should be part of this communication?

“When else?”

When else did something like this happen? 
When else have we been in this situation?

The Takeaway
; Encouraging people to think about alternatives often results in additional ideas, and at the very least, a more thought out original idea.   Ask, "What Else?" to stimulate additional thinking beyond just the first multiple choice answer.

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