How To Ask The “Best” Question

A client asked me about the “best” social game company the other day. Like most simple questions, this one had no simple answer. How was he defining “best?” The one that made the most engaging games as measured by how long users were playing? The one that sold the most games? The one that was most profitable? Or maybe the one that creates games that really are works of art? Each of those questions has a different answer in my mind so I did what a lot of we consultant types do: I answered his question with a question.

Putting my confusion aside, that simple question raises a good business thought.  Let’s ask it about TV.  What’s the best program on TV?  I might answer that as a fan – the one I like the most and which is appointment television for me:  Homeland, The Newsroom, and even a program that’s not on “TV”, House Of Cards.  Obviously, I’m defining “best” in a way that takes writing, acting, plot, and other factors into account.  I might answer it as a former TV executive (which I am!): The Voice, American Idol, and even Duck Dynasty come to mind.  They’re watched by some of the biggest audiences, they’re not particularly expensive to produce, and they take in a lot of money.

Which is the “best restaurant ”  If one of Thomas Keller‘s places come to mind, I’d agree answering as a foodie.  As a businessperson, maybe the right answer is someplace that feeds millions and makes over a billion dollars a quarter?  Not that McDonald’s tops any fine dining lists of which I’m aware.

The point is that how we answer questions is very much tied to our point of view.  If you’re asking them, it’s important to figure out from which perspective you want the answer given.  If you’re answering them, it’s critical that you ascertain the underlying reason for the question in the first place.  As with the above examples, your answer may be very different based on that.  A little clarity can go a long way in advancing business success. Have you found this to be the case?

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