Steve Jobs did many things to make himself successful. He trained his brain using this simple meditation technique. He immersed himself in these highly unusual books. He also listened to ten songs that inspired and motivated him

Steve Jobs also helped thousands of other people become more successful and in the process created arguably the most innovation company of all time. One way he accomplished this was to regularly ask his teams these simple questions:

1. "What's not working?"

Bosses seldom ask this simple question because 1) they're afraid it will devolve into finger-pointing and 2) focusing on problems rather than solutions tends to depress morale.

Unfortunately, avoiding the question risks small problems that remain unmentioned and unaddressed until they snowball into disasters.

Jobs cut the knot of this dilemma by calling on an attendee and asking "What's not working?" then calling on another and asking: "What IS working?"

Jobs would continue to do this until he felt he "had a handle" on what was really going and then use that perspective to make the best decision.

2. "Why doesn't it work?"

Most bosses avoid this question because 1) they don't want to get into the technical nitty-gritty and 2) it can metastasize into a pointless discussion of who's to blame.

Steve Jobs realized, though, that constantly asking "why" behind design, production and distribution limitations is what opens the door to constant innovation.

According to one account, Jobs used this question to drive the maligned-at-the-time but brilliant-in-retrospect design decision to release the iPhone without a physical keyboard.

3. "Is this the best you can do?"

This question is brilliant and effective both because of what it implies and how it inspires.

When Jobs asked it, he was implicitly stating that 1) he knew the employee was doing good work but 2) he would not be satisfied with anything but the employee's very best work.

By putting the burden of judgment on the employee, this question inspired them to either commit to the quality of their work or 2) go back to the proverbial drawing board.

Published on: May 22, 2018