In the incredibly challenging process of compiling, collating and presenting the new ImagineNation MOOC (massive online open course) on innovative leadership, we created a new role for innovative managers and leaders as ‘disruptive provocateurs!’ One of their key skill-sets is to know how to safely use conflict and the potential for conflict, and disagreement and dissent to question and challenge operating logic, feeling and thinking patterns. Because questions are the answer and when you change your questions, you can dance with disruption and change your world

Disruptive provocateurs know how to deeply attend, generatively listen and question to safely use disruption, dissonance and discomfort to apply contrarian thinking to generate constructive debates.  That enhance people’s capacity to create and innovate by being, thinking and doing things differently.

A disruptive provocateur courageously questions everything; they use disruptive thought provoking and bold questions to challenge the status quo, often with an uncommon intensity and with great frequency.

So what is a disruptive question and why are questions the answer?

  • A disruptive question is an invitation to be curious and to think differently about a person, situation, challenge or problem.
  • Disruptive questions cultivate insights about ‘what currently is’ and ‘what could or might be’.
  • Crafting the ‘right’ disruptive questions enables people to better understand business problems, get to the core.
  • Re-framing the problem into a generative or higher level systemic challenge creates  breakthrough innovations.
  • Disruptive questions are key creative catalysts that allow and provocate and emerge possibilities for innovative ideas and solutions.

The Generative Discovery Cycle – where questions are the answer

1. Elicit a description of the territory.
2. Identify the causes of the current reality occurring in the territory.
3. Disrupt the territory.
4. Elicit creative ideas.

Step One –  Elicit a description of the territory;

It starts by eliciting a description of the territory or the social field of attention. Like the famous American TV detective it’s good to start with the ‘Columbo Technique’ to explore, understand and describe the specific operating (cognitive, emotional, and visceral) territory. Most of us are aware that the ‘map is not the territory’ it is only a picture or a representation of the actual territory. This requires us to inquire and listen deeply to reveal ‘what is’ and to connect with people to build empathy with how it feels to be located in that kind of territory by changing questions.

 Asking ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ questions.

Step Two – Identify the causes of the current reality occurring in the territory or social field of attention;

To really know the territory, we have to immerse ourselves in it; by generating a deep understanding of the current situation or business problem; how it impacts on the business as well as on current and potential customers. This enables us to evolve a hypothetical disruptive solution, to then prototype, test and verify for innovation. Changing questions to ask causal questions helps get to the core of the business problem, and it requires continuing shifting across listening to the facts and the data as well as emphatically.

– Ask causal questions.

Step Three – Disrupt the territory;

To help formulate a hypothetical disruptive solution for the problem at hand, it is important to continue changing questions to make the shift from specific and descriptive questions to generating disruptive ones to;

– Create collisions between peoples internal programming, perspectives and thought patterns,
– Initiate mindset shifts,
– Create cracks and openings,
– Elicit possibilities for solutions.

Asking intentionally disruptive questions requires us to deeply generatively listen, to create the safe space and an empathic relationship if you don’t want to come across as aggressive, or oppositional. If you are doing this effectively, people will start to unconsciously move into a safe and constructive generative debate that will ultimately result in a right hand turn, or series of breakthrough ideas.

 Asking deeper ‘what’ and more ‘why’ and ‘why not’ questions.

Step Four –  Elicit creative ideas thru generative debate;

This step continues towards changing questions to explore the ‘what could be’ space, and generates a deeper constructive debate, that draws on potentiality and elicits unexpected possibilities awaiting us in the social field of attention.

– Asking ‘what if’ and ‘how might’ questions.

Being able to deeply question and listen are not only symbiotic, when we master this vital skill set; we demonstrate generosity, respect and appreciation for one another which makes collaboration and co-creation an effortless and easy experience.

Questions are the answer, so changing questions can change the world!

“Changing our questions can change the world. The key is constantly creating better questions to see that world with fresh eyes. When this happens, we will find ourselves living the profound observation that Jonas Salk (discoverer of the first polio vaccine) made that “you don’t invent the answers; you reveal the answers” by “finding the right question.”

Daily Disruptive Questioning Practice

It also creates an opportunity for effecting daily listening and questioning practices that make innovation everyone’s job, everyday and unleash people’s creativity in the workplace:

– Rocking the boat and exposing the elephants and sacred cows.
– Disrupting the status quo and generate ‘out of the box’ thinking.
– Stimulating, activating and generating new perspectives and thought patterns.
– Colliding peoples ‘necessity’ and ‘possibility’ meta programming.
– Achieving high levels or meta thinking to generate imaginative and creative ideas and unexpected solutions in the everyday business world.

The generative inquiry cycle was adapted from ‘The Innovators DNA’ by Clayton Christensen.

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation coachingeducation and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviors, and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Contact us now at to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.