Asking the Right Question at the Right Time is a Foundation of Big Idea Success

What, exactly, is your big idea? I'm listening. Do tell. Oh, but first, read the story below.

Many years ago when I was first starting out with a big idea of my own, I was approached by a friend to become part of a CEO group he was starting. I'd heard about such groups - gatherings once a month with 10-12 Chief Executive Officers or the equivalent executive, to share ideas and help smooth the bumps and stumbling blocks of starting a new business. 

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I never thought I'd be part of such a group. I wasn't a CEO. I was and still am an entrepreneur. I was happy with the peer learning I had at two active networking groups I belonged to. Becoming part of something that brought talented, creative, smart people together in smaller groups terrified me! After all, I was a little fish in a big pond. I was pretty sure the executive in the group would swallow me whole, without a thought.

Little Fish, Big Pond, Scary Thought!

My friend, who saw more in me than I saw in myself, saId, "Why are you hesitating?"

I shrugged. "I'm not sure it's for me, " I said. I couldn't look him in the eye, lest he see my fear.

"What if it is?" he said.

"I can't afford it," I said, falling back on the tried and true answer to any given opportunity. Not having funds is always a good excuse, isn't it?

"What if you could?" he said.

"I'm just starting out," I said, with a sigh. "I don't think I have much to offer."

"What if you did?" he smiled.

And so on. To every objection I made he gave a question I couldn't answer.

The questions led me to understand that I was not giving myself credit. I soon understood that the group was a valuable opportunity and I wouldn't know how well I would do in it, until I tried. 

Any Questions?

I thrived in the group. It taught me more about being a business leader than I could have learned on my own in a hundred years. I have stayed in contact with my friend and I receive his newsletters weekly.

Which is where the story today really begins. It begins with the subject line of his latest newsletter: Any Questions? 

And, this is the story shared, about Professor Harvey. Jerry Harvey. Author of the book, How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed in the Back, My Fingerprints Are On the Knife?

In the story shared in the newsletter from Bruce Peters, Professor Harvey teaches a valuable lesson in questioning, with just one sentence. And it goes like this:

In his later years, Harvey was a 'professor' at George Washington University School of Management. The quotes are used to show that, while he was an official professor in designation, Harvey did not like the term. Remember, he was a practitioner of non-teaching. 

In his role as professor, he was to teach Business Ethics 101. It was a required course for all GWU Schools of Management students. It was a class attended by 100+ students. 

The first day of class Harvey would walk into the overflowing amphitheater-like classroom armed with no notes or any other teaching aids that students have come to expect from teachers.

Harvey would simply ask, as only he could do in his West Texas draw, “Any questions?” He’d pause, full of hopeful anticipation.

Harvey’s pause was filled with silence. With no questions from the students Harvey would, without explanation, leave.

Harvey would reappear at the next scheduled class session. Without delay or comment, Harvey would say again in that same distinctive West Texas accent, “And … any questions?”

Silence ensued. With no questions to answer, Harvey would once again leave.

Well, you can imagine the reaction of the students. Sooner or later, and after several abbreviated sessions following his “Any questions?” a student would ask a question.

“Professor Harvey, why do you keep leaving?”

Harvey’s answer was brief and again, with a question. He’d ask, “Why do you think? 

The Question is...

The question I'm putting before you today is: What's your big idea?

Are you ready to take it where it wants to lead you?

If not today, then when?

If not you, then who?

If silence is your answer, I will ask again, What is Your Big Idea?

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