I never underestimate the importance of asking questions.

In these uncertain, challenging times, it would be easy to believe your value to an organisation is to have a never-ending stream of answers. We’re all familiar with meetings, discussions or store visits where views and opinions are shared ahead of a true understanding of the problem. I’ve discovered that by defaulting your behaviour to intense questioning, I’ve found myself in a different place, fixing a different problem with a different solution.

Ask yourself questions. What project have you been delaying? What conversations have you been avoiding? What decisions have you been putting off? These are the questions that could make that important difference.

Ask your customers questions and really tease out of them what is important – and don’t be afraid to listen to the answers. For example, after asking our customers about promotions, our challenge was to make them simpler.

We recently changed a promotion with many exclusions to a simple discount off our whole product range. Our customers loved it, overall sales climbed and we protected our market share.

After a noticeable increase in the sale of men’s ties, we used our regular customer surveys to discover that men are smartening up in the workplace in a ploy to keep their jobs with the current threat of redundancy. By understanding this need, we were able to increase the communication of our formal ranges and make Moss a first choice for customers.

And ask your colleagues questions. What’s their understanding of a project’s objective? What’s their role in delivering the plan? What is it they need from you and your team?

We used questions effectively at a recent company conference, where the two-way dialogue with our store managers gave us great feedback from our most important brand ambassadors. It also reassured us that the whole business has the same vision, to be the UK’s number one branded suit specialist.

We’re developing this way of thinking at Moss and the teams seem to like it. They feel involved – and because they are, we’re more accurately diagnosing the problem and finding the right solution first time. It’s healthier for the business, more open and ultimately easier.

When you’ve asked enough questions, you’ll know the real problems to be fixed. You’ll then need a plan. When we build our plans, we remember Einstein’s famous quote: “There is nothing that is a more certain sign of insanity, than to do the same thing over and over and expect the results to be different.”

A version of this is hung in our chief executive Philip Mountford’s office and we all now have permission to take risks, break a few rules and truly think outside of the box.

Sean Murray, head of marketing, Moss

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