Have you ever found yourself in a discussion around design decisions, engineering decisions, or product direction? Have you seen these discussions go in circles or seemingly not get resolved?
In most cases, a straightforward question can save you a lot of time: “Out of ten, how much do you care about this topic [your reasoning]?”
When I first heard this question, it sounded absurdly simple. And it still does. However, you would be surprised at how effective this question is.
Yes, I am aware that it completely oversimplifies the access you may have to external validation practices (like market research, customer research, or behavioral data.) Even with all of this work and these signals, you will often find yourself in a discussion where there is no clear direction. In these moments, it is much more vital for you to create focus and momentum for your team and yourself than to be right at the moment.
The real goal is to develop shared knowledge and common ground between (often very smart) people who have different frames of reference, other goals, and different ways of communicating. It can allow you to save time and increase momentum, understanding, and mutual respect.
So what are some of the results of asking how much someone cares about the topic at hand or their take on it?
This question is only one example of how to get there. In a healthy candid organizational culture, it is all about working together, leading with vulnerability, having a good escalation structure, etc. Ideally, you should genuinely be able to ask directly what someone’s angle is to get to a good resolution.
There is a more extensive set of questions that, on the surface, seem very simple but can have some very positive impact on communication within your team. Questions like:
None of this is a silver bullet for every scenario, and if your organization fundamentally rejects these types of discussions, you have bigger fish to fry. However, please try them out amongst the collaborators you trust, and see how it works for you.