50 Questions to Spark Strategic Innovation

50 Questions to Spark Strategic Innovation

I believe that strategy is change and I know that change can be hard — but getting started shouldn’t be. You just need to be willing to ask the right kinds of questions, the answers to which will prompt you to reimagine every area of your business — from your value proposition to your product set, from your ideal customer to your unseen competitor, from your strengths to your stumbling blocks, from what to keep to what to kill. So with this in mind, I took just ten minutes to make a list of 50 (50!) questions that have the potential to spark strategic thinking and innovation. Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Who are we?
  2. Who do we want to be?
  3. Who do we serve?
  4. Who do our customers think we are?
  5. Who do we want our customers to think we are?
  6. What business(es) are we in?
  7. What business(es) should we be in?
  8. What businesses(es) must we be in within the next five years?
  9. What business(es) should we not be in?
  10. What do we believe?
  11. What truly makes us different?
  12. What cannot be imitated?
  13. Where is the one place our competition would never go?
  14. What would we like to be remembered for?
  15. Where are we strongest?
  16. Where are we weakest?
  17. What existing capabilities or assets can be applied in new ways?
  18. What new capabilities or assets are required?
  19. Why do customers choose us?
  20. Why do customers choose to leave us?
  21. What customer needs do we actually meet?
  22. What would customers value more?
  23. What other options (especially beyond the obvious) meet similar customer needs?
  24. What other markets have similar needs that we could serve (but aren’t serving today)?
  25. What else do customers do before, during and after they buy our product?
  26. What customer need remains unmet?
  27. What job can customers not get done today?
  28. How could we super-serve the customers nobody else wants?
  29. What could we do that would defy expectations?
  30. What beliefs about our business no longer serve us well – what should replace them?
  31. Of the things we do today, which are (or will soon be) obsolete?
  32. Where is the white space?
  33. How else could we create value?
  34. How can we make or do this better?
  35. How has someone outside our industry solved the same problem?
  36. What do other companies in our industry, outside our industry, and beyond our markets offer?
  37. Who could we partner with to enter new markets?
  38. Who could we partner with to provide new solutions in existing markets?
  39. If we could start again, what would we be?
  40. What trends are most likely to shape our future?
  41. What’s likely to disrupt us?
  42. What would it look like if we were to become the disruptor?
  43. How is technology changing our industry?
  44. How can we use technology to change our industry?
  45. How will new competitors be different or better?
  46. How would [Elon Musk, Jef Bezos, Larry Page, etc] approach our market?
  47. How can we make the process of buying and using our product simpler?
  48. What new distribution channels, points of presence or ways to purchase should we explore?
  49. What constraints exist, and how can we reduce or remove them?
  50. How can we reimagine a product as a service (or a service as a product)?

Naturally, you won’t need (or want) to sit your team down and run them through all 50 — and if you take ten minutes of your own time, I’d bet you could come up with 50 more. But really, all you need is one, the answer to which causes you to ask just one more question. Perhaps the question that matters most: “What’s possible?”


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