There is no one right way to gather information when you’re working with multiple parties. That’s why it’s beneficial to think upfront about what ways might work best for you.
Ask the Same Questions Over and Over
One natural way to gather information from separate, multiple groups is asking the same strategic thinking questions repeatedly so you can aggregate or compare answers from among all participants. This is the basis of quantitative survey research. You can employ the same strategy in more qualitative settings too, such as in focus groups or when evaluating between separate groups or individuals (think of a job interview or a vendor review process).
This same approach underpins much of our strategy work.
For example, it’s what happens when you answer the same questions annually about an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Asking the same strategic thinking questions of multiple people each year provides a basis for making effective comparisons.
We employ this approach for strategic thinking questions across many situations.
Identify What Answers You Need and Ask Different Strategic Thinking Questions
There is another valuable technique for using strategic thinking questions, however, that many organizations overlook. We use it actively, however.
We inventory upfront what information we need to learn or insights we need to develop to move a strategy forward. With this inventory of strategic thinking ANSWERS, we can make decisions on whether the asking same strategic thinking questions repeatedly will deliver what we need OR if asking varied questions will work more effectively and efficiently.
This questioning strategy to information and insight planning provides various benefits:
- If a key piece of information comes up earlier than expected during our process, we can capture it than and have it available when we need it later.
- Asking strategic thinking detour questions allows people to share new insights and answers that won’t emerge from the standard questions.
- Varying the strategic thinking questions we use provides greater flexibility and is less monotonous for participants.
Neither of these two approaches replaces the other one. Used together, however, the two approaches open up many more opportunities for stronger information gathering and developing new insights. – Mike Brown
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