The Elegant Outcome and The Art of the Question

January 13, 2016 - 5 minutes read

“Ask the same question often enough,
and the question will become the answer.”
– Mike Kunath

Thanks for spending a moment to look over this new blog series. I trust you will find it thought-provoking and of personal or professional value.

Three points of importance in this initial post:

First: I intend to look at unusual subjects from different perspectives. For example, clients believe that KKRA Investment Advisors, LLC invests in cash, stocks and bonds. Yes, that’s true…as far as it goes. They are the instruments we invest in, but our investment decisions are driven by a very broad set of underlying variables and based upon the questions we ask. Some topics and their questions will surprise you. Some may anger you.

A few examples of forthcoming pieces include:

  • Weather to Invest – Should weather patterns drive investment decisions?
  • Global Warming – Is Al Gore the Joe McCarthy of the 21st century?
  • Checking the Check – Are banking laws made primarily to benefit bankers?
  • The Carry Trade – Is the trillion $ carry trade about to explode — worldwide?
  • Social Media – Do millennials communicate any other way?
  • Robot John – Would you like to meet your new neighbor?
  • Prostitutes with a Pen – I’ll leave this to your imagination
  • Demographics 101 – Is this the most overlooked, misunderstood and important statistic?
  • One-Stop Shopping – Do these behemoths have your best interests at heart?

Second: it is the Question that is relevant, not the answer.

In each of these posts, I will try to drive to the best question(s). Why the emphasis on the question you ask?
Questions are forward looking. Answers too often are dependent upon past facts and trends.
What do I mean here?

There is no school in the US, in western society for that matter, which gives a class on how to ask a question. In Western society we aggressively provide answers to any question, no matter how innocently or stupidly the question may be asked. Thus graduates of any university are flawlessly taught how to answer questions, and their ability to do so is grade-dependent.

In business, what if the wrong question is being asked? What if it is not sufficiently crafted to elicit a thorough, thought-provoking response? What’s the probability of success when an action is dependent upon the wrong question being asked and agreed to?

I can remember being in banking committee meetings as a young professional. The Chair of the meeting would begin to ask a question and before he or she could complete the question, at least one young hand would go up…with an answer. Young professionals are taught that the answer is the most important thing, when in reality it has little or no bearing upon the decision process. In business, the question is central: it — rather than the answer — drives decision-making. Ask, then re-ask the question, again and again, and the answer will emerge. The question will eventually become the answer. By the way, this is equally true in our personal lives. Listen to yourself and ask questions in a casual environment. Dumb questions get dumb answers. Oftentimes you will know that you are asking a dumb question — before you’ve finished asking it.

Business CEOs or CIOs who have all the answers to very complex or dubious questions are themselves suspect. Their future is at best a guess. Clear, demonstrative answers are a sign that key management personnel either don’t understand their industry, or more simply, are selling a bill of goods, as forward-looking questions are at best difficult to answer, rarely with any certainty. However, the “right” question points to an ELEGANT OUTCOME.

Third: note the name — three operative words.
“The” – suggests there is only one of something
“Elegant” – Usually defined as dignified, refined, or sophisticated.  Effortless beauty and simplicity, simple and precise
“Outcome” – emotional or logical result

If an elegant outcome is based upon facts, there can only be one elegant outcome.  However, if based upon opinion, there can be many, BUT only one that makes sense to the reader.
Thus, my elegant outcome may not be yours.


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