Question 1 of the Seven Questions Innovative Leaders Ask

from the Break Through, V. 1, P.8

By the time we arrive at these seven questions, we already have our idea or concept in hand. Whether it’s a program change at a school, a new approach to management at a nonprofit, a fundraising idea for a community group, or a cutting edge product for a small business, asking these seven questions will set you ahead of the curve, and help ensure that your concept will come to fruition.

By asking, “what’s happening?” you’re prompting your observation, data collection, and research skills to go to work. It’s quite possible that someone, somewhere is already doing some version of your idea. Fortunately, this gives you the opportunity to learn from what they’re up to … What obstacles have they faced?  How have they faltered? How can you innovate even further on their concept?

Learn from others’ mistakes and achievements.

While we’ll dive deeper into context during question six in a few days, “what’s happening?” allows us to explore the landscape and learn the lay of the land. Some information might be useful right away, other bits might come in handy later on, regardless, you’ll be informed and that matters. Why?

Let’s say you’re interested in opening up a brewery in Colorado.  You and a couple of friends have mastered some awesome recipes at home, you have investors interested, and an entrepreneurial restaurant manager has agreed to help with day-to-day customer operations. You’ve even identified an amazing location.  Cool.  But wait, you pause, look around, and ask, “what’s happening in Colorado’s brewing industry?”

You quickly discover that more than dozens of new breweries are opening up every year. Lots of breweries are opening up bottling lines for distribution of their beer, and there seems to be an epicenter around Denver where many of these new breweries are opening or are going to open. You also discover a brewery guide to Colorado from the 1990s … this isn’t the state’s first brewery boom! And most of those from 1997 are no longer around.  Dreams crushed?

ABSOLUTELY NOT! You are passionate and committed to opening your brewery. Instead of closing down your idea, this information sparks even more creativity. Is there still room in the Denver market? If not, where are the gaps, what town is missing a brewery that would love to fill a tap room? Are there beer styles not being focused on that people would love to drink? If there’s no more space on the liquor store shelves for another brand, what are some innovative ways we can distribute our beer to increase our bottom line? How can we make our taproom an inviting place that beer connoisseurs seek out? Can we be a neighborhood spot and a destination brewery?

Now we’re rolling.  New ideas are flying and the break through, the innovation that will set us apart, is right around the corner. Then, to increase the chances, we add one of my favorite words and ask, “what ELSE is happening?”