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How Your Brain Out-Googles Google
Dr. Danny Friedland was brilliantly confused.
Friedland is known for at least two things. First, he helped pioneer evidence-based medicine, the industry standard for making science-based medical decisions.
But his real passion is optimizing mindsets, and he has spent a lifetime working to understand how our brains and bodies function under stress. This expertise has led CEOs around the world to engage Danny to help them “lead well from within,” which is appropriately the title of his book. So, as I said, by almost anyone’s standards, he is brilliant.
Now, ironically, Danny found himself confused, stressed and spiraling into a depression. The leading expert on brain function was stuck, struggling with his own mental health.
It was at this point that Danny stumbled onto his greatest insight related to how the brain functions. To quote the good doctor, “Your brain doesn’t give a sh** what questions you ask it.” In a moment that would change his life for the better, Danny realized that he was simply asking his brain the wrong questions.
“An expert knows all the answers — if you ask the right questions.” —Levi Strauss
Anyone who has ever used Google to find the answer to something knows that a few letters can be the difference between satisfaction and something else like salaciousness. Just ask Dan Parisi who, until 2004, owned whitehouse.com, a controversial internet site that reportedly made $1 million annually by displaying, among other things, adult content. You can imagine the surprise and horror of history teachers and concerned parents everywhere when students searched incorrectly for the answers they were seeking about our executive branch of government.
And herein lies an important point about Google AND your brain: When you ask Google a question, it doesn’t ask why you are asking, it just churns up answers. Similarly, when you ask the brain a question, it sets off a set of physiological and psychological responses that is either going to lift you up or send you into an unexpected spiral, depending on what you ask.
The Best Leaders Ask The Best Questions
Here’s an example. The moment he reframed his question from, “What am I doing wrong?” to “How do I find my way back home?” Danny got the answers he needed to become happy and fulfilled again.
This is a painfully simple lesson that even experts need to learn again and again.
Two Practical Applications
Leaders understand that the way they frame challenges will directly impact the way their team’s respond under stress.
For example, if you are coming into a meeting to discuss terrible Q1 results, an unskillful question might be: “How the *&^% did we screw up so badly in the first quarter?” This question will produce fear and defensiveness. It will cause the brains of your teammates to produce fight or flight responses that will all but eliminate constructive conversations and generative ideas.
If you are the leader in charge of this type of meeting, your primary responsibility is framing the right question for the right moment in time. In this case, a question like, “What is Q1 trying to teach us?” will ready your team for a generative, problem-solving conversation.
Dr. Danny’s discovery can also be flipped to your advantage to find new customers because they are seeking answers too. If you know the questions that your customers are asking, they can be turned into a content strategy in which you write articles, white papers and blog posts addressing these questions. This will make your clients easier to find by Google and other search engines.
For example, when we interviewed our customers and audited our most recent projects, the questions that our clients are asking most often include:
- How do I build a 3- to 5-year strategy for my company that is built on more than just historical data and my gut?
- How do we create strategies to scale our portfolio of products and services globally?
- How do we create a brand strategy that includes adding new products and services?
- How do we create a culture that embraces innovation?
- How do we optimize our customer experience to improve a specific metric?
- How do we create a digital transformation strategy that involves blockchain?
What questions are your potential clients asking themselves (and the internet) most often?
This list of questions then becomes a prompt for future articles, transcribed webinars and blog posts. When people ask these questions in the future, a simple search will direct them to the company providing the answer.
Google is an incredibly powerful company that connects valuable information with people who need it. But thoughtful leaders understand how to use their brains to out-Google Google.
April 25, 2019 at 11:28AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs