A Secret Formula for Answering Tough Questions

I have a secret formula for getting the answers to your toughest questions. Interested?

There’s one catch. The formula will work only if you search for answers to very specific questions. No general questions will do. You must articulate exactly what it is you don’t know, but need to know.

To put you in the right frame of mind to get specific, imagine that you are going to ask your question of someone who is known to be monumentally impatient, tremendously helpful if you come prepared, and absolutely unwilling to grant second chances to those deemed lazy. 

Are you ready? Willing to dig deep and get as specific as you can? No mental laziness allowed?

Ah, then you are on your way! If you really try to determine exactly what it is you don’t know but need to know, one of three things will happen:

  1. You will discover you already know many answers, more than you thought.
  2. The specificity of your question will make it easy to get an answer, whether from a book, an individual, or a team you need to assemble for that purpose.
  3. You will realize that no one can provide a perfect answer, at least not at a reasonable cost or in a reasonable timeframe. You or your team will have to make your best guess, move forward, and learn from the experience.

Skeptical? Get started with this question: What are the three most important things I need to consider in order to…? Did you gain any clarity just finishing the question? And, did you just discover that you know at least one of the things you must consider? Can you now be more specific, and then more specific still?

The clarity you achieve through this approach will help you reduce mountains to molehills.

Besides, asking general questions is simply abdication of responsibility.