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Focus on the Question

by Randall Craig on February 17, 2010

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Strategy

Tagged as: , , ,

Whenever there is uncertainty, we look for answers. We investigate alternatives, and then choose a course of action. Often, however, we are unsatisfied with the results, or have a sinking feeling that we’ve missed a key piece of information along the way.

Albert Einstein had an interesting approach to this: “If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would take 19 days to define it.” Or said another way: to get to the right answers, you need to ask the right questions.

While common sense and experience might suggest what these questions should be, we don’t always have the requisite experience. (Or the common sense?) Thankfully, many of these questions are embedded within Analytical Frameworks, and can easily be applied to the problem at hand. Some of the frameworks may be familiar to you, others not. For more information on each, just Google each of the framework’s names.

Examples of corporately-oriented analytical frameworks:

  • 4P marketing analysis: Price, Product, Promo, and Place.
  • Consumer analysis: Who/what/where/when/why/how.
  • SWOT: Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats.
  • Porter’s 5 forces: Supplier power, threat of substitutes, buyer power, barriers to entry, rivalry.
  • Internal vs External Factors.
  • PEST: Political/Economic/Social/ Technological.
  • Fixed vs Variable cost analysis.

Examples of personally-oriented analytical frameworks:

  • Job Quality Checklist: When to leave your job.
  • Personal Balance Sheet: How to evaluate and set your work-life balance objectives.

Of course, just because you might know and use one of these frameworks, doesn’t mean that you ignore your “gut” – it just means that you have more questions to choose from, and more avenues to explore.

This week’s action item: When faced with a critical decision, don’t immediately rush to conclusions, but focus on the questions instead. Whether you use analytical frameworks or not, asking great questions is the best way to get a great answer – and great results.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


Data, Information, Intelligence

by Randall Craig on November 21, 2006

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: ,

How many hours have you spent trolling through the internet, doing “research” on a particular company or industry? Many people spend too much time on research, and put off making a decision or acting on it.

The reason? Most people are averse to risk. We rationalize that with more information, there is a lower risk of failure. But how do we know when we’ve done enough research? Consider the Data-Information-Intelligence model: instead of making a quantum leap between Data Gathering and Action – we break it down into steps:

Data Gathering: Decide what you need to collect, then obtain it from your workplace, friends, the internet, library, or other sources. Don’t waste time in pre-data-gathering activities – such as “internet surfing”. Write down what you’re looking for on a piece of paper, then when you have found the data, move on.

Information: As it is collected, organize the Data into logical groupings: Pros/Cons, History/Current status, By divisions, By Country, or whatever seems to make sense. Look to see if there are any patterns to the information that you have collected.

Intelligence: Change from an information organizer to an intelligence analyst: What does the information mean? What are the implications? Are there any trends? If there are any gaping questions that are unanswered, ask if more data will help you make your decision. If yes, then get it; if not, then it is time to act.

This week’s action item: Whenever you need to do research this week, make sure that you move through intelligence – otherwise you’ll never get to Action.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


What would my mentor do?

by Randall Craig April 25, 2006

Mentors and coaches hold a special place in most successful managers’ careers. They provide advice on difficult decisions, give valuable career perspective, and smooth the political way when problems occur. But what should you do if your mentor is not available, and you need their advice? Stalling or deferring your decision isn’t a preferred alternative, […]

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