Before we go deeper on the pursuit

of those transformational questions,

let’s understand the innovator’s life

without them.

Assume you and your competitors

are chasing the same consumers. So, sensibly

enough, at the outset of your innovation program,

you round up a bunch of them, and probe what

they like and love, dislike and barely tolerate about

their current category experience.

You tease out their pain points and unfulfilled

aspirations and conjure sparkling new offerings

that do away with the bad and usher in the good.

It works for a while, but eventually you find the

thrill is gone. Everyone in your category, it turns

out, is rallying around the same questions, and

chasing marginal builds on the prior answers.

Some better, some worse—but subtle differences

do not a breakthrough growth engine make.

You’re left relying on fleeting advantages in

technology and design rather than sustainable,

highly differentiated and scalable strategic and

conceptual market-making platforms. In the

long run, the commonality of questions becomes

strategic gravity, begetting narrowly clustered

innovations across a competitive set.

Of course finding new answers to age-old questions

isn’t a bad thing. You’ll occasionally pluck a tasty

helping of low hanging fruit that way, and that kind

of innovation has an important role to play in a

balanced innovation portfolio. But, as a general rule,

a same-questions approach will tend to make future

growth a function of execution rather than strategic

differentiation, which can lead to margin erosion

and sleepless nights for your CFO.

Enter the transformational question.

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