Answer Intelligence
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Answer Intelligence

Raise your AQ

Brian Glibkowski

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  1. 336 pages
  2. English
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  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Answer Intelligence

Raise your AQ

Brian Glibkowski

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About This Book

Shortlisted for The Business Book Awards 2022: Smart Thinking category

Answer Intelligence: Raise your AQ is a book about six answers: story, metaphor, theory, concept, procedure, and action. By fully incorporating questions into those answers, Brian Glibkowski showcases how readers can not only elevate their understanding of questions and answers, but also reimagine what it means to communicate effectively. The book identifies five High AQ practices that distinguish expert communicators. Featuring chapters which each cover a different form of AQ such as Sales AQ, Interview AQ, Coaching AQ, and more, the book includes real-life examples of elevated answers.

With contributions from representatives of organizations such as Salesforce, Center for Healthcare Innovation, Boston Mutual Life Insurance, as well as academics, the book provides comprehensive insight into AQ from across the professional and research spaces. Giving readers access to an app allowing them to do an AQ self-assessment, the author equips his audience to use the skills and behaviours presented to improve and hone their own AQ.

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Answers Deserve Our Attention

Brian Glibkowski

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.
Voltaire's message: Questions determine our character.
We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.
Bono's message: Questions are hard.
If I had an hour to solve a problem… I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.
Einstein's message: We should spend our time on questions.
As illustrated by the preceding quotes, society’s luminaries are focused upon questions, not answers. In school, any child can identify a taxonomy of six question types (the WH-questions; what, why, when, where, who, how). However, if pressed, this same child cannot identity a taxonomy of answers. The professor stresses the “research question,” but the parallel phrase “research answer” does not exist in the vocabulary. Society's education from middle school through higher education is focused upon questions. Outside the classroom, questions are emphasized. Sales methodologies focus upon questions, not answers. Business books with “question” in the title outnumber books with “answer” in the title 3 to 1. 1 The imbalance is real. Society is focused upon questions, not answers.
There is a baseline fallacy that answers necessarily follow questions, in a way that parallels how a chemical reaction follows from mixing chemicals in a beaker. Everyday chemical reactions are commonplace, and their cause-and-effect interactions are taken for granted. Imagine you are on your deck in the backyard. Look at the plants around you. Photosynthesis occurs when carbon dioxide and water are combined to form oxygen. Combustion occurs every time you strike a match to start the fire for the charcoal grill. The metal chair you are sitting on is showing signs of rust – oxidation that has resulted from iron and oxygen combined. If you combine the right chemicals, a chemical reaction necessarily occurs. This is a causal model.
Causal and process models are often conflated. If you ask the right question, the answer does not necessarily follow. Questions and answers represent a process model. Humans have been asking questions since the beginning of time. Are we alone in the universe? We still don't have an answer. What do I want to do when I grow up? Many kids struggle to find an answer (and adults too). Who should I hire? Many organizations get this wrong and turnover is high. In a causal model, like chemical reactions, it makes sense to focus upon the inputs. If you get the chemicals just right, the chemical reaction must occur. But, if you get the question just right, the right answer does not necessarily follow.
Case in point, the right answer does not necessarily follow from the right question, I was pulled into a consulting project with a company that had turnover problems. The question was clear, “Why was turnover occurring?” The client simply did not have the answer. My expertise was developing and testing theory. In this case a theory of turnover was used to answer their question. I could examine the academic literature on employee turnover and identify a theoretical model (tentative answers), that would be followed by data collection, and confirmation of answers. My expertise on answers, not questions, was the reason I was hired.
It was not adding up. Voltaire, Bono, and Einstein had high praise for questions. But answers did not necessarily follow from questions, like a chain reaction. Indeed, my clients could often ask the right questions, but they fell short in their ability to identify the answers. Contradicting society’s rhetoric, when it came down to spending money, I was routinely hired as a consultant for my ability to provide theoretical answers, not for my ability to ask questions.
It was at this point, when my intrigue with answers was at a high point, that I conducted academic research into the nature of answers with the top golf instructors in the world (see Chapter 2). My understanding of answers deepened. My colleagues and I identified a taxonomy of six answer types (theory, concept, story, metaphor, procedure, action). This research also identified how these answers mapped to the primary questions focused upon in a conversation (why, what, how). The why-question is answered by theory and story answers. The what-question is answered by concept and metaphor. The how-question is answered by procedure and action.
Eventually, I referred to this framework as Answer Intelligence (AQ)™, representing an ability to communicate centered upon answers that any communicator could improve upon. Even in the early days of the research, the AQ framework helped me improve my conversations with others. Accordingly, “Why was turnover occurring?” could be answered with a theory and story. Using AQ, I was able to expand upon and dramatically improve my conversations by using story in addition to theory.
Prior to the research with top golf instructors, I regularly used theory (a type of answer). My consulting had always been based upon my ability to identify and test theoretical models for clients. I was also familiar with the shortcomings of theory in conversations with many clients. For example, as I developed theoretical models to explain and test turnover, it would be helpful if the client could provide me information about what was missing in my model, so it could be refined and improved. After all, the client was closest to the problem so their insights would be critical. In an attempt to get this information from the client, I would show them a diagram of my theoretical model and ask them to identify what was missing. This was helpful to an extent, but this often led to frustrating conversations, where the client might say: “I can't think of anything to add.” “This looks very abstract.” “What is a moderator?” In short, they often did not think about their problem in terms of the cold and objective perspective of theory, and often they did not understand its subtleties. This was not surprising. Again, this was precisely the reason I was hired to begin with – to develop and test a theory they had difficulty identifying themselves.
Nonetheless, the need still existed to engage the client in a conversation to get valuable information that would inform the theoretical model. Out of frustration, and a newfound awareness of AQ from my research, I began to experiment with stories to answer the why-question. Narrative scholars have argued that next to language itself, the defining attribute that makes us human is our ability to story the world. I started to ask for stories. For example, I could ask them for a general story about turnover: “Can you tell me a story about why employee turnover is occurring?” Or, I could ask them a specific story about the impact of turnover: “Can you tell me a story about the importance of the supervisor to employee turnover?” I found executives could tell me meaningful stories about anything. The stories were full of details about turnover; I learned about the impact upon the business, the emotional toll upon the employees, and beliefs about why the turnover had occurred. If I listened to their stories close enough, I could find an endless supply of relevant details. This was in sharp contrast to the terse and bankrupt conversations I would often have regarding theory with the clients.
I came to appreciate that stories had themes (for example, “turnover occurred because of poor supervisors”) and these themes could be translated into theoretical answers. A theory is a cause-and-effect relationship between variables (e.g., supervisors → turnover). It was through this transformational process that I was able to turn aspects of a story into individual variables that I could add to and sequence into any theoretical model. One positive experience with using stories with one client led to me focusing upon stories with other clients. Eventually, I would start every consulting project out by identifying stories at the company. These stories would then be translated into a theoretical model that I would test for my clients. To my surprise and delight, I found that when I translated the client's stories into theory that the executives became fully engaged. The theory imbued with their stories became more meaningful. I could show the cause-and-effect theory diagram, and the executives were engaging, asking questions about the model, and actively making suggestions to the theory itself. I was hooked.
Answers were important. AQ was transforming my conversations and I started to believe it had the potential to do the same for others. Even in the early experiments with AQ, important lessons were being learned about answers.
  • There are six answers. In my own conversations I confirmed the value of the six answer types discovered with the top golf instructors. I started by experimenting with theory and story, and quickly started using the other four answers (concept, metaphor, procedure, action) to navigate important conversations with clients, in the classroom, and at home.
  • Questions mapped to answers. Given my interest in theory, the importance of the why-question answered by theory and story was first to be confirmed. Shortly thereafter, I confirmed that the what-question was answered by concept and metaphor; and the how-question was answered by procedure and action. Understanding the mapping of questions to answers provided insight into answers, questions, and suggested a newfound understanding of effective conversations (emphasis upon the relationship between questions and answers).
  • Early on I realized that there were individual differences in preferences for answers. My clients often preferred to communicate in story, not theory. Stories created an emotional resonance that theory did not. However, my colleagues in academia, and some within companies, preferred theory because of its objective, codifiable, and testable nature.
  • Answers represent skills that can be improved upon. The core of theory is cause-and-effect; a simple structure theory consists of two variables causally related (X → Y). Anyone can be trained upon this. Moreover, this training could expand to greater depths. The skill could be further developed. After all, I was hired by clients for my ability to provide theory answers that I had developed in my formal PhD training. I had been trained on theory development. I knew the difference between mediators and moderators. I understood how to partition variance between multiple levels to assess the separate statistical impact of culture upon turnover, as compared to supervisors upon turnover.
  • In a similar way, the ability to tell stories could be improved upon. At its core stories are simple – they involve characters and a theme that occurs in a setting. We all know a story when we see one at the movies. But, like theory, one can be trained upon story and improve their ability to provide story answers. For example, in learning about story, I was exposed to the different structures of narrative, such as the three-act play. I began to story my presentations for dramatic effect using a three-act structure. For example, in the classroom, I would move around the stage (the front of the classroom) to three different points, with each movement meant to correspond to shifts in the focus of the lecture from the beginning, middle, to the end.
  • In addition to theory and story, I have found the other four answer types (concept, metaphor, procedure, action) each represent skills that can be improved upon.
1Keyword search for “Business & Money” in books.


AQ Came from the Golf Course

Brian Glibkowski

To understand answers, my colleagues and I published a paper on answers by studying the top golf instructors in the world (McGinnis, Glibkowski, & Lemmon, 2016). Why golf? First, we were able to interview 25 of the top golf ins...

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