Idea in Brief

The Situation

With organizations of all sorts facing increased urgency and uncertainty, the ability to ask smart questions has become key. But business professionals aren’t formally trained in that skill.

Why It’s So Challenging

Managers’ expertise often blinds them to new ideas. And the flow of questions can be hard to process in real time, so certain concerns and insights may never be raised.

The Remedy

Strategic questions can be grouped into five domains: investigative, speculative, productive, interpretive, and subjective. By attending to each, leaders and teams are more likely to cover all the areas that need to be explored—and they’ll surface information and options they might otherwise have missed.

As a cofounder and the CEO of the U.S. chipmaker Nvidia, Jensen Huang operates in a high-velocity industry requiring agile, innovative thinking. Reflecting on how his leadership style has evolved, he told the New York Times, “I probably give fewer answers and I ask a lot more questions….It’s almost possible now for me to go through a day and do nothing but ask questions.” He continued, “Through probing, I help [my management team]…explore ideas that they didn’t realize needed to be explored.”

A version of this article appeared in the May–June 2024 issue of Harvard Business Review.