Why mediation is useful for Strategists.

Strategy Consulting is all about asking the right questions. 
— Stefan Jenart

How are you able to consult people even when you're not an expert in the specific sector of your client? And why did you study so many broad and different subjects?

A common misconception (or maybe even illusion) of strategy is that an outsider swoops in and explains you what you should be doing based on outside mystical knowledge only a few people posses.

Well, since there is no secret organisation that holds all knowledge, this is what really happens when you hire a consultant:

Strategy Consulting Questions.jpg

knowledge lies within

In its pure essence, strategy is asking questions. Asking you the right questions. Asking your employees the right questions. Asking customers the right questions. Insights are never new. There is no magical framework of new elements that works for everyone. Strategy merely sheds a different light on the same problem. 

Art Markman puts it well: "In fact, most people who come up with creative solutions to problems rely on a relatively straightforward method: finding a solution inside the collective memory of the people working on the problem. That is, someone working to solve the problem knows something that will help them find a solution — they just haven’t realized yet that they know it."

"In order to generate a variety of possible solutions to a problem, then, the problem solver (or group) can change the description of the problem in ways that lead new information to be drawn from memory."

That is why mediation is such a useful tool for Strategy. In mediation we call these type of questions: "thought provoking". When asked, they stimulate the thinking process. 

Some examples:

  • Questions aimed at attaining information, the who, what, where and when: 
    How do you make money? What is your businessmodel?

  • Stimulating questions are those that ask you to view the problem at hand from a different perspective:
    What does your customer think at this point? What is your customer doing at the same time? Why would they care about you?
  • Hypothetical questions ask for imagination to picture a non-existent situation:
    If you received €100.000, how would you use it? What are the subjects you would like to share with potential customers? 
  • Circular questions are questions which focus on reciprocity: 
    What can you offer so that someone would consider your brand?

So, instead of thinking about consultancy as someone telling you what to do, imagine consultants as people finding more descriptions of the problem in order for you to discover what it makes you remember.