Richard P. Feynman was a scientist, teacher, teacher, translator of Mayan hieroglyphics, drummer, and raconteur. And in his spare time, he won the Nobel Prize for physics.
He created a great visual moment as part of the Rogers Commission investigating the NASA Challenger tragedy. He famously demonstrated how the O-rings became less resilient and subject to seal failures at ice-cold temperatures.
He simply dipped an O-ring into a glass of ice water, removed it and showed how easily it could harden. It was a sublime moment because he deftly turned a sea of words, facts and figures into an unforgettable visual lesson.
This unrepentant iconoclast was someone who asked crazy, provocative questions.
Feynman’s account of the Challenger disaster reveals a disconnect between NASA’s engineers and executives that was far more striking than he expected. His interviews of NASA’s high-ranking managers revealed startling misunderstandings of elementary concepts. His conclusion? “ NASA management’s space shuttle reliability estimate was fantastically unrealistic.”
Managers weren’t asking engineers good questions. Engineers were often caught in bureaucratic silos and weren’t able to get the full perspective. It was a question vacuum.
Feynman warned in his appendix to the commission’s report, “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
At Inotivity we are champions of crazy, provocative questions. Yes, we ask the usual suspects; “why” and “how”. But we also ask “Why not?” We ask what are the possible consequences?
During your next meeting ask everyone to ask a better question. Ask a crazy, provocative question. Ask everyone to ask five cage rattling questions about your business.
A good start? What’s our glass of ice water?
If you don’t have an open culture, being by doing it anonymously. SeeFeynman’s demonstation below: