Innovation starts with the quality of your questions

Tom Barrett
5 min readOct 28, 2022

In the final publication of the October throughline we explore how to build a culture of innovation one question at a time.

Your Snapshot​

A quick synthesis of this issue to share

💡 Innovation starts with the quality of your questions. Asking the right questions leads to new possibilities and innovative solutions.

💡 We are often drawn to ideas because we want to fix problems; starting with an idea feels safe and more fun than starting with a problem.

💡 If we want an innovative culture in our teams, we need to start with questions instead of ideas.

💡 Trust and psychological safety create the culture for collective negative capability, which John Keats coined as “the ability to live with ambiguity and uncertainty.”

💡 Commit to action by being aware of your need for certainty, make space for ambiguity and uncertainty in development work, and build trust by encouraging questions.

#289 | October 28, 2022​ | Tom x Midjourney​

Siren Call of New Ideas

We often think of innovation as coming up with new ideas, but the reality is that most new ideas are combinations of existing ones.

The process of combining ideas in new and exciting ways is what creativity is all about. We are drawn to this creative process like a siren call.

We love coming up with new ideas, of being the first to have them. It’s an intoxicating feeling. We get a rush from it. And so we’re constantly on the lookout for new ideas.

But where does this compulsion to start with ideas come from? Why are we so drawn to them?

I believe there are three reasons.

  1. We want to fix it. It doesn’t require any real effort or commitment. You can sit around all day thinking about ideas; it doesn’t cost you a thing.
  2. Starting with an idea feels safe. It’s like playing with legos; there’s no risk involved. If you don’t like the idea you came up with, you can discard it and move on to the next one.
  3. Starting with an idea is fun. It’s much more enjoyable than starting with a problem. Ideas are full of possibilities and potential. They…
Tom Barrett

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