The right questions…
I read a blog early this year by Edward Boches at Creativity Unbound. Like Seth Godin, he’s one of the people you should follow and read regularly because he always makes you think.
Anyway, the point of the blog was the importance of asking the right questions.
He told a story about Irish Spring, the distinctive green soap created by Colgate Palmolive in the early 1970’s. It became an instant hit, a billion dollar brand and the leader in its category that had previously been dominated by P&G.
What did P&G do? They immediately began working on their own version of a green-striped soap.
It’s easy to get caught up in this kind of mindset.
Luckily for P&G, they invested in brainpower from outside their organization to help keep their creative teams on the cutting edge of innovation, and one of these experts, Min Basadur, who wrote the book, “The Power of Innovation,” changed the question from ‘How do we make our own version of Irish Spring?’ to ‘How might we…?”
Like: How might we make a better soap? How might we make a more refreshing soap? How might we make a soap that conveys the imagery of a sandy, white beach?
Voila! COAST was created, and while it never bested Irish Spring, it made a lot of money for P&G.
If we, in Radio, had asked the right questions 25 or 30 years ago, we might be in a different place right now.
- How might we find a way to let our listeners have more say in the songs we play?
- How might we use music research to expand our playlists rather than shrink them?
- How might we limit commercial inventory and still hit our revenue goals?
- How might we find and develop the air talent we’ll need in the future?
- How might we let listeners help create original, compelling content for our station web sites?
- How might we produce content that is accessible on any device a listener chooses, especially mobile ones?
- How might we package information so that it’s there when listeners want/need it, and not when they don’t?
- How might we offer traffic reports that can be personalized for each one of our listeners, delivering alternate route information in real time and a safe way?
- How might we improve the quality and effectiveness of our commercials so that we become true partners in the success of our clients?
- How might we provide accountability and measurability with our ads so we can prove they’re reaching the ears our clients need to target?
- How might we structure our companies so that we continually attract the most creative, bright, and motivated programmers?
- How might we use our reach to build closer relationships with individual listeners through our web sites so that we offer them products and services they’ve told us they actually want from clients in our markets?
The good news is, it’s never too late to start asking the “How might we?” question, and once you start the process, it begins to sustain itself in a continual process of innovation.
Both Google and Ideo use the “How Might We?” method to begin their problem-solving process, and if it’s good enough for two of the successful and innovative companies in the world, it might be worth consideration inside your company too, don’t you think?
Here, help me. Use the comments section below to ask your own “How might we…?” questions.
You never know who might end up reading this.