During a Sunday morning sermon, the preacher picked up a copy the Holy Bible, held it high in his hand with a lot of energy and passion, and told the congregation, “…this book has ALL the answers, you just have to ask the right questions…”. Surely, one can expect similar situations in other religious venues, political gatherings, strategy meetings, and so on, where someone or something claims to have a lot of (if not all) the answers. However, to find the most useful answer(s) we must indeed ask the right question(s); the wrong questions will only lead to confusion and wasted effort without ever reaching the desired goal.

Asking the right questions takes both science and art. Clear recognition of the appropriate context is the first step to formulating valuable questions. In a business setting such a context involves goals, motivation, assets, and constraints. What outcomes are we trying to achieve ultimately, what drives us to seek such outcomes, what can we leverage to realize these desired outcomes competitively, and what conditions do we have to abide by as we try to achieve these outcomes? The higher the goal importance the higher the criticality of context recognition and correct question articulation.

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