Natalie Nixon, a creativity strategist, emphasizes the importance of asking the right questions in order to foster innovation and creativity. She believes that inquiry and curiosity are crucial for driving innovation, as they can bridge information gaps and encourage expansive thinking.
Nixon introduces the “Taxonomy of Questions,” which includes divergent questions (“Why?”, “What if…?”, “I wonder…?”) that promote big picture thinking, and convergent questions (“What?”, “Where?”, “When?”) that provide tactical guidance. To thrive in an ambiguous world, we need to balance both types of questions, embracing creativity as a uniquely human trait that sets us apart from technology and automation.
Nixon suggests becoming “clumsy students” of something new in order to build confidence in asking questions and seeking help. By practicing this discipline of inquiry, we can develop our ability to think differently and drive innovation.
NATALIE NIXON: Not all questions are created equally. If you want to get a different output, you've got to ask a different set of questions. Asking questions is absolutely a discipline that we all need to master.
JEOPARDY HOST: 'Alicia.
JEOPARDY CONTESTANT: What is Alaska?
JEOPARDY HOST: That's right.'
NIXON: One of my superpowers is my ability to help people rethink the ways that they think- and the reason this matters is that so many of us are churning at work, and we're actually not pausing to think about the ways that we're thinking. And if we don't pause to rethink, we're not going to shift our behaviors, and ultimately, we won't change culture.
We're all trying to innovate; we're all pursuing innovation. And from my perspective, creativity is the engine for innovation. My name is Natalie Nixon. I'm the author of "The Creativity Leap," and I help leaders transform their business models through creativity.
A main component of creativity is inquiry: Inquiry is about building curiosity. And what is curiosity? Well, Ian Leslie has a great definition of curiosity. He says that, "Being curious is the product of an information gap." You need to know just a little bit about something to be curious. Inquiry is all about a shift away from 'only with certain' to asking new and different sorts of questions. And we really want to encourage those really big picture, expansive questions.
There is what I call a "Taxonomy of Questions." There are 'diverging questions,' questions such as "Why?" and "What if...?" and "I wonder...?" I think there's literally nothing bad that follows the phrase "I wonder..." The other group of questions are what I would call more 'convergent questions.' They help us to get more tactical, so questions such as "What?" and "Where?" and "When?" And in some of our organizations, those tend to be the sorts of questions that we focus on, but we wanna be able to really integrate both of those categories of questions to build curiosity.
We live in incredibly ambiguous times, and in our educational systems and a lot of our corporate environments, we want to lean into certainty. We want to lean into: 'What is the answer?' But the reality is we don't have all the answers. The challenge when we're only myopically focused on what is the right answer, is that we lose sight of opportunities that are right in front of us. Technology is ubiquitous, and in a lot of ways, we as humans, will be replaced by automation, robotics, etc. We're constantly saying that we want to innovate, but if we want to innovate in a consistent and sustainable way what I think we need to remember is that what makes us uniquely human is creativity. If we want to get greater, more innovative output, we must be willing to ask new and different questions, and we must embrace creativity.
We can model and practice inquiry in some really practical ways. I recommend that more of us should become clumsy students of something, of anything. So for example, I am a clumsy student of ballroom dance. And one of the gifts of dance is that you only learn through deep observation, not only of your teacher and your instructors, but also of your peers and students who are a lot better than you. And you'll only advance if you ask for help, and if you ask questions. If we are clumsy students of something in our personal lives, we will discover that we will be a lot more confident in asking new and different sorts of questions. The world will not come to a screeching halt if I ask a question that seems obvious to others, but not to me. Asking questions is a way of thinking, and it's a discipline that we can all practice, and get a lot better at.
NARRATOR: Get smarter, faster with videos from the world's biggest thinkers. To learn even more from the world's biggest thinkers, get Big Think+ for your business.