Arête Purpose Blogs

Published: April 9, 2019


Arete Purpose Consulting


Curiosity Creates the Questions; Questions Create the Future

Elizabeth Mellencamp Johnson, Arête Purpose Consulting

As I talk to people who are interested in change - even those who are dependent on changing for the survival of their organization - I find that we begin at the same place.

They tell me a story about WHAT IS.

I listen respectfully. I know it is daunting to dare to think beyond the story of WHAT IS.

I know also that this story is important. Not only are the experiences of the past valuable, but the successes of the organization’s legacy must be understood for their significance to foster the present and build the future. WHAT IS creates the foundation of the future story.

And then I must ask about the stories of WHAT IF?

  • What if the story of the organization must change in order to pave the way toward a meaningful and successful future?
  • What if the story of the present or the past is not big enough to hold what must develop to hold the story of the future?
  • What if it certain legacies must be released to hold new opportunities?

The WHAT IF questions are not easy. They require curiosity. They require risk. They demand fierce truth and both the knowing and the understanding of the facts. Just talking about “the data” doesn’t do it.

What knowledge does the data create? And what do you, as an organizational leader, need to do with that knowledge?

Those who lead organizations are challenged by such questions. They crave the exploration of these questions, and yet experience the challenge of uncertainty as the exploration begins. They lead others through this risky territory toward the answers of such questions. They allow discomfort, yes, even encourage this discomfort.

Organizational leaders that take the time to create these questions create organizational engagement, growth, reinvention, and success.

Here are some examples:

What if the people you serve no longer feel engaged with the services or products you provide?

This is a hard one. What makes people care? How do you engage with the people who do care about your service? Or product? “Back in the day…” as we say, it was common to tell people what to care about. Information was delivered from “the top,” down. Information was narrowed.

Now, each person determines what will get attention and what is considered necessary to know, to share or to give attention?

And information is free.

What can you provide your customers beyond information? Do you know? How do you know you are connected to them? Do you know what is important to them? How do you know that?

What if the people you serve want to be connected instead of informed?

This is a powerful question. And one worthy of curiosity. In the information-drenched world we live in, people desire connection to the meaning of information. They crave tactics, training, and consultation on how to use information. How can your organization connect with them and connect them to others that create this meaning and efficiency?

With all that is available, people feel lost in the information. They seek a way to use information.

Does your organization provide that? Does your organization know how to engage with people on how to use information? Do you know what information they want to use? Do you know what information feels overwhelming to them?

What if you were able to reinvent what you so to get the attention of those you have never served?

This is an exciting question for those on the edges of change. It invites creativity and growth within the conversation of change. Who else is interested? How can our organization use the lessons of the past to connect with needs of the future? How can we make information real to those who feel overwhelmed by it?

What if your organization could answer some of these questions?

Elizabeth Mellencamp Johnson is a Partner with Arête Purpose Consulting and is a Partner with Stillpoint Consultants. One of her favorite quotes comes from Albert Einstein, who said: “The important thing is to never stop questioning.”