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The 4th Question that Leads to Insight

I recently posted a discussion titled “The 3 Questions that Lead to Insight,” which triggered several discussions with colleagues. There were two areas of controversy. First, is insight different from vision, strategy and action? Second, are these 3 questions sufficient? Let me address those by saying Yes and No, respectively.

I view Insight as a precursor to efficient, effective action. Action should be driven by Strategy, and Strategy should be driven by the marriage of Insight and Vision. First you need to see deeply into what is happening Now. Then you need to examine the gap between Now and your long term goal, your Vision. Only then should you engage in strategizing and planning.

In other words, I argue for linear process. Unfortunately, I neglected to include the endgame part of the process (thanks to Dan Rockwell and Jorge Barba for pointing this out). And of course, as Stephen Covey reminds us, we must begin at the endgame. So first we create our Vision, then develop Insights by clearly understanding where we are now, and only then ask “so what can and should we do about it?” In this model, Insight is clearly delineated from Vision, Strategy and Action.

However, as Jorge pointed out in his comment on my earlier post, I missed a critical insight question. The three I discussed were:

  • Where are we now?
  • What’s working here?
  • What’s not working here?

To which Jorge very wisely added:

  • What’s changing?

The current situation is never static. What’s working now may not be working as well as it used to. Customer requirements may be becoming greater or lesser. The market we’re in may be shifting. Competition may be becoming stronger or weaker. The economy and new technology are inevitably turning up some dials and turning down others. Grasping underlying change dynamics is key to the insight process. Understanding how today has changed from yesterday opens a window on what tomorrow may be like.

Insight, aided by these 4 questions, illuminates the present. Vision sketches your future destination. Getting from Here to There requires strategy and action. Each step in its own time.

What are the greatest changes you are facing? How can you use insights about change to challenge your organization’s assumptions?

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