Beautiful Digital Questions.

The book that has me completely captivated right now is Warren Berger's "A More Beautiful Question," which has rapidly become a sacred text to design thinkers and others desperately seeking context in today's world. For those of us who live in this hall-of-mirrors digital marketing world, I'd call it required reading.

The book's central premise is that in the age of Google and instant information, we are virtually drowning in answers and facts. Rather than clarify our lives, answers ultimately confuse, misdirect, distract and muddle. Breakthroughs of insight and creativity (of which we are woefully short) only come through better questions - 'more beautiful questions.'

Facing a huge pile of late fees at Blockbuster, a frustrated Reed Hastings asked "What if there was no such thing as late fees?" The last Blockbuster closed down earlier this year, and Reed's resulting company - Netflix - seems to be doing OK. Amateur painter and professional typist Bette Nesmith Graham asked "What if I could paint over my mistakes while typing, the way I do when painting?" Her paint and water formula, initially popular with the other secretaries, became Liquid Paper and ultimately sold for $50 million. There are a raft of other great stories and insights into how beautiful questions come into being and turn into real innovations. And it all made me wonder: what are the questions that could create breakthroughs in our business? Here are a few that I came up with over coffee. If you're so moved, add yours to the list via the comments box.

  • What if we eliminated the word advertising from business and revenue models? How would that change the way we think about creating value and connection between businesses and consumers?
  • What if we each person in your company was forced (and paid) to spend a day each week studying something completely unrelated to digital marketing and technology? What kinds of new connections and thinking might become real?
  • What might happen if sales teams shifted their focus to value creation and experience engineering? What if every sales meeting focused on what we did for marketer instead of what we got from the marketer?
  • What if we abandoned architectural and industrial language - exchanges, marketplaces, servers, platforms - and rooted all our metaphors in the language of nature -- gardens, forests, ecosystems? How might that change the way we act and the values we bring to the business?
  • What if there were no such things as initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions? What if everyone who launched a business knew they would have to live with and tend it until it either succeeded or died? How might that change the way we lead and create?

These are just what I came up with this morning. I'll warn you now: this questioning thing gets pretty addictive. I'd love to hear some of yours.