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Being and Doing

This chapter is all about asking questions in a way that will help you identify the fertile soil for innovation. There are two important components to this: the doing part and the being part. Many people will tell you the sorts of things you can do (tips, tricks, or techniques), but they don't pay much attention to how you can be-that is, what is the way of being that you should adopt in order to allow yourself to really be present in a room with someone and experience what it's like to be inside that person's skin.

How should you be in order to ask questions and really hear and comprehend the answers that you get?

The way we'll frame the discussion of questions in these pages is through the unique focus groups that I have developed for my clients, but don't limit yourself to that context as you explore the issue for yourself. I use these ideas all the time- whether I'm talking to my husband or talking to my clients or interviewing consumers. As someone once said, the key to all progress is asking the right question (doing) in the right way (being).

Most of the time, we think of action as straightforward. A man walks across the room and picks up a glass of water. A woman speaks to her employee. But actions themselves are usually the tip of the iceberg. Since most communication occurs nonverbally, actions can be multilayered and carry great weight.

In the film All About Eve, there is a scene in which Bette Davis's character argues with her boyfriend. Again, one would think that performing this scene would be straightforward: In an argument, one is angry. But strangely, for take after take, the actress couldn't convey the right emotion. She could 'do' the argument, but she had trouble with the 'being.' Finally, the director told her to seem during the argument as if she were dying to eat a piece of candy from a nearby bowl. The resulting scene sizzles with tension.


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