The Power of Questions

By Rajesh Setty


The great master Peter Drucker passed away recently and several gurus remembered their interactions and experiences with Drucker in various media outlets. I had an opportunity to read many of them. The one I liked most was from Jim Collins. Collins wrote a piece in a recent issue of Business Week recounting his first meeting with Drucker. Collins was a young man then and his life changed completely when Drucker asked him the question “What do you want to contribute?” The rest we know is history.

Questions have great power. One right question asked at the right time can change the direction of our lives. Hence, the quality of the questions that we ask ourselves is VERY important. It is for the same reason that we need to choose our company very carefully. With the right people around us, if for some reason, we miss asking the right questions, someone in our group might. 

Re-framing: Looking at life differently

If we are not going in the direction that will ultimately lead us to our goals, one of the problems may be in the questions that we ask ourselves. It may be time to reframe some of the questions. Here are a few examples:  
Original question: What am I getting? 
Reframed question: What am I becoming? 
              [courtesy: Jim Rohn] 
Original question: Why is this happening to me? 
Reframed question: What can I learn from this? 
Original question: Why can't he/she understand me? 
Reframed question: How can I communicate so that he/she can understand me? 
Original question: How can I get to the next position so that I am better? 
Reframed question: How can I become better so that I get to the next position? 
Original question: Why should I be proud of working for my company? 
Reframed question: Why should my company be proud of me working for them? 
Original question: How can I find a cool company to work for? 
Reframed question: How can a cool company find me to work for them? 
Original question: How can I get this task done? 
Reframed question:  What is the right configuration of resources to get this done in the most optimum fashion? 
I urge you to look at some of the common questions that you ask yourself and see how you can reframe them to make them more effective. Create your own set of original and reframed questions.

Engagement: Revealing new questions

I have always been fascinated by questions for a long time. I should be. I have had mentors since a very long time-even before I knew the value of having a mentor.

Sports people have figured this out long back. It works for them and for everyone.  We just have to experience it to believe it.  Ask someone who has engaged a coach about their experiences and you’ll find that almost everyone will talk positively both about the experience and the results. 
I talked about the need to ask the right questions.  But how do we know what is the right or the wrong question? Good coaches or mentors are great at doing that. I have three mentors/coaches and I am fortunate to have been associated with them for years. Every interaction I have had with a coach has been fascinating to say the least. 
Coaches are good is in solving problems. There were many occasions when I started the discussion with an issue that was not the one I was supposed to address. Coaches are great at getting to the bottom of things by asking the right questions.

Reflection: Questioning your questions

Even if we find the right answer to a wrong question, it won’t help you. Instead you will get very tired. You have reached so far by answering or finding answers to a set of questions. Think about those questions for a while. Better yet, list them down on a piece of paper.

As the New Year dawns, here are some questions on those questions:

  1. Would finding answers to these questions serve you well?

  2. Would you be able to reach your goals and dreams by finding answers to these questions?

  3. How could you reframe these questions to serve you better?

  4. What questions should you erase?

  5. What new questions should you add to this list?

  6. At what point in your life should you re-visit this list again? 

Enrollment: The power of collaboration

Hopefully I have made a case to reframe the questions that you are asking yourselves and of others. Now, comes the dreaded action part. How do we ensure that you do TAKE some action and make changes to the set of questions in your life? Chances are that you will remember this article for a few days and forget it forever. You can change that easily by enrolling someone who cares about your success and well being and will hold you accountable if you don’t complete this exercise.

Call him or her and share what you learnt and ask for their help in completing this exercise. Watch miracles happen!

Rajesh Setty is an Entrepreneur, Author and a Teacher.
Setty currently serves as the Chairman of CIGNEX Technologies, Inc, which he co-founded, in late 2000. Setty’s latest book ‘Beyond Code’ (Foreword by Tom Peters) was published simultaneously in October 2005. Setty speaks and writes frequently on topics that include Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Open Source. You can follow his blog at Life Beyond Code

VC Funding Could Bring India Out of the Backroom

An interview with Sumant Mandal

(Courtesy IT Business edge and intentblog)



Question: Could you give an overview of the current venture capital funding situation in India?

Mandal: There is approximately $1 billion that's been raised for investment in private companies in India. I'm not quite sure how much of that is going to go towards IT or services businesses that are IT enabled, but I can say for sure that a vast majority of that money will go into existing and later-stage businesses. There is little or no real VC money available in India. Companies that are receiving money in India are either spin outs from existing large businesses (an example being GECIS, which is a spin out of GE), captive units or second tier outsourcing providers that may lack the size or scale to compete with giants like Wipro and Infosys and want the private equity money to grow through rollup and acquisitions. In the early-stage investing business, there are a few small funds that are local to India but have not done too many deals.

So there's a big hole in venture money for start-ups in the way we recognize them here in the U.S. (early stage, pre-product or pre-revenue companies), and a majority of the private equity is going into late stage businesses. There is quite a bit of competition for later-stage businesses as there are very few that have strong management teams and international aspirations. Funds that are active in India for later-stage investments are General Atlantic, Warburg Pincus, TPG, Carlyle and some local players like Chryscapital. We [Clearstone] would fit in the early-stage investing mold. For early-stage investing, there are either companies that are developing IT products that are internationally relevant (technologies that are servicing the North American or European markets but are built using Indian talent) or companies that are creating services targeted at the Indian consumer, where there is potential for hyper growth. Connectivity (mobile and broadband), content and enabling electronic commerce are good areas in India today.

Question: What types of IT product ideas are coming out of the new markets in India? How do you  
think the strength of these products reflects India's growth in the IT marketplace?

Mandal: India's IT industry is still quite nascent. Broadly speaking, the IT market is services driven — so whether its services center around IT outsourcing or services attached to an industry vertical with some "productization" of the technology, it's still broadly services. Compare and contrast that to China, where most of their value add has been in manufacturing- or hardware-related industries. The Indian industry, though, has unique advantages, and now it has experience in the software world. So some of the companies we are seeing are quite similar in product ideas to companies we see in the Silicon Valley — not as sophisticated or as experienced but going after the same markets that we see here. Given time, those will evolve and be competitive in the world. My own sense is that it doesn't matter if the company is started in India or outside — it has to be an innovative idea, with an experienced team and worth putting time and effort in for large outcomes. The cost part of the equation makes no difference. Development costs may be cheaper in India, but marketing and building a sales team for a company targeting the international markets remain the same wherever they start from.

Question: What concerns do you have about how the Indian entrepreneurial market is growing? How do you see it faring over the next five years?

Mandal: My biggest concern is the commitment from all the members of the ecosystem. We need to see some real exits and role model companies and entrepreneurs emerge for people to aspire to. This may take a few years — and it's important for people going to do business in India to recognize that. Talent is a scarce commodity worldwide, and experienced talent is even more rare in India. I'd like to see that number grow, and that will take commitment from investors, existing companies, institutes and the government. I see the industry really becoming globally competitive in the next five years, challenging multinationals on an equal footing. The industry will no longer stay in the backroom.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.


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