Powerful Questions Help Us Explore ‘The Truth’​ – Or Do They?

Ed Catmull (co-founder of Pixar and former President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation) and his leadership team asked themselves a string of questions following the astonishing success of their early films ‘Toy Story’ and ‘A Bug’s Life’:

“If we had done some things right to achieve success, how could we ensure that we understood what those things were? Could we replicate them on our next projects? Perhaps, as important, was replication of success even the right thing to do? How many serious, potentially disastrous problems were lurking just out of sight and threatening to undo us? What, if anything could we do to bring them to light? How much of our success was luck? What would happen to our egos if we continued to succeed? Would they grow so large they could hurt us, and if so, what could we do to address that overconfidence? What dynamics would arise now that we were bringing new people into a successful enterprise as opposed to a struggling start-up?” (Creativity, Inc published by Transworld Books)

I’m impressed by these questions – their humility, depth, insight, creativity and challenge. But I’m even more impressed that they didn’t accept their then box-office-smash, award-winning success as ‘a truth’ and realised that asking some piercing questions would help them sustain success.

All of us have ‘truths’ like ‘the Board would never agree to that’ or ‘we have to do it this way to stay within policy’. Turning that ‘truth’ into a question unlocks possibility ‘so is the question, what do we need to do to convince the Board that this is the right way to go forward?’ or ‘is the question ‘how do we do this in a way that complies with policy’?’. Both in individual and team-coaching sessions, the impact of great questions is clear. Sometimes clients come up with answers or possibilities, sometimes they sit with not knowing. Sometimes they realise that they don’t even own the issue.

So, what’s a great question that you could ask yourself today?

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