MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Bill Aulet
The holiday period is a great time for reflection and then behavior modification – often referred to as resolutions. While a bit artificial to the logical engineer, this opportunity can be helpful. This year, my favorite insight came from a former student and employee, Elliot Cohen, co-founder of PillPack.
While thinking about the major aspirational goals for the upcoming year that motivate me to get out of bed every morning with high energy and purpose – such as getting my second book out in March, significantly raising the endowment of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, developing the concept of “Inclusive Entrepreneurship” to battle the deep societal alienation we have seen in 2016, and, of course, just becoming a better entrepreneurship educator to my students – there is one underlying enabling resolution that can help me achieve all of them more efficiently and effectively.
Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center
At age four, we’re fueled with curiosity, asking thousands of questions to better grasp what’s going on around us. Already we are aware, at a very fundamental level, that questioning helps us feel our way around a situation and develop entirely new ways of engaging with the world.
It isn’t long, however, before we enter an educational system that rewards answers more than questions. Consider that the average child between six- to 18-years old asks only one question per one-hour class per month. Contrast that with the average teacher, who peppers kids with 300 to 600 questions a day and waits an average of one second for each reply, and you have a recipe for what I call the “Global Questioning Crisis.”
As adults, many leaders perpetuate this answer-centric culture, playing it safe as they get things done. But, based on my research and firsthand conversations with the most renowned leaders of our time, high-impact innovators know that they must question to disrupt, or risk being disrupted. As such, they sustain this critical skillset, not just by asking more questions, but by identifying the “hot” questions – ones that are provocative, emotional and downright uncomfortable – while also encouraging those around them to be passionate about the same. Finally, they actively pursue answers to these hot questions by leveraging several key discovery skills – observing, networking, experimenting, and associational thinking.