Sunday, January 12, 2020

You Gotta Ask The Right Questions

In a didactic (teaching) environment I often think long and hard before asking a question. I assume the teacher is a subject matter expert and knows what they are talking about.

But I have run into a few exceptions.

Let's explore this topic.

The Organic Growers Conference

I was at an organic growers conference a few years ago. They have vendor booths for people to offer products for organic growers. One of the regional universities had a booth and a graduate student was doing a survey to get data for her research.

One of the questions was, "What conservation practices do you use to slow soil loss." Generally a legitimate  question, especially if you are growing crops with conventional practices. We do want to keep the soil we have. But a much better question for her organic audience would have been. "What conservation practices do you use to build organic matter and build soils." Not slow the loss of soil but to increase the quality and volume of the soil you have.

I got the "deer in the headlights" look, I think she had never thought of it like that. Well if you want to be an opinion leader in organic agriculture and some day have a PhD in this field. "You gotta ask the right questions."

The Survival Scenario

I was at a class on team building a few years ago where we did a survival exercise where you picked the 5 most valuable things to have in your possession if you were alone in the wilderness and needed to survive for a month. This was to show how the consensus of the team was typically better than any one of the members. This was typically true unless you had a real subject matter expert. From my farm background I knew a lot about extreme conditions and I could outperform the team every time. That is why you have a hyper experienced leader leading teams of technical experts in a technology company. The expert can anticipate issues and can steer the team toward the best possible outcome. This is often called a project manager. This is a skill learned from an experience over many projects and several years. You can jump start this process by mentoring from a very experienced senior individual.

Buying Decisions

When making buying decisions I have found it helpful to reverse the scenario to get a clear view of your options. For example when deciding to sell a property, you might ask yourself if you didn't have the property already, would you buy it. If the answer is no, then sell it.

I was on a church committee once where we were considering paying off the church mortgage making a push for extra giving and to make that more attractive, they were going to do an extensive renovation of some facilities for the children's ministry (about 3 million dollars for the mortgage and about a million for the renovation). I asked the question, if you were going to pay off the mortgage for your house, would you first build an addition to your house to increase the mortgage by 30%. No typically you would not. That put the decision in perspective.

The Bell Curve

There does not have to be a bell curve in life, everyone can get an A if they ask the right questions.

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