Setting Your Company’s HR Course for 2024

Wishing you all the best in the new year.

It was during a flight home from Florida, in April of 2014, that I first read an article written by author Warren Berger entitled, “Chasing Beautiful Questions” in the Southwest Airlines’ onboard Spirit Magazine. The article stuck with me. In fact, I have referred to it and utilized it in meetings, teambuilding sessions, training programs, and more over the years since then.

The article is about innovator Van Phillips and his quest to develop a better prosthetic leg than the ones that existed when he lost his leg as a young man, in a 1976 boating accident. If necessity is the mother of invention, then Phillips’ “necessity” was to walk… and even run… better than the old-fashioned prosthetics would allow him to do. This led Phillips to invent what we now know as the modern prosthetic leg, often referred to as “the blade.”

Berger’s article explores Phillips’ use of “beautiful questions” to look at his necessity in new ways and to find new solutions. As Berger wrote, “What is a beautiful question? It’s one that challenges assumptions, considers new possibilities, and has potential to serve as a catalyst for action and change.” Ultimately, Phillips was able to find new solutions by asking questions that went from “Why?” to “What if?” and ultimately to “How?” and persisted until better answers were found.

Often in business, leaders either intentionally or inadvertently discourage people from asking questions. Employees come to understand that challenging assumptions about what you do, why you do it, or how you do things can make them look inexperienced or, worse, can get them into trouble at work. They learn that “it’s better to keep your head down and just do your work.”

However, there are numerous benefits to encouraging questioning and curiosity in the workplace, including:

  • Increased innovation
  • Improved problem-solving skills
  • Greater adaptability to change
  • Enhanced collaboration within and between teams, and 
  • Higher levels of employee engagement

The greatest inventions and discoveries are the result of someone questioning the status quo and seeking new solutions. Encouraging curiosity and questioning at work leads to greater creativity and better outcomes. 

Leaders should begin by modeling this activity. When an employee comes to you with a problem, rather than providing them with a solution, start by exploring questions about the issue with the employee. Encourage them to question and consider alternative solutions. You might also hold meetings for the sole purpose of discussing existing business processes and problems in the context of the key questions of “Why?” “What if?” and “How?” 

Finally, as we look ahead to 2024, I encourage you to question your current HR practices, policies and processes. Are they serving your business needs? Creating a positive culture? Encouraging employees to stay long-term and do their best work? If you’d like assistance to explore these and other HR-related “beautiful questions,” please feel free to reach out for an informative HR assessment

Asking the RIGHT questions is as important as answering them.

–  Benoit Mandelbrot mathematician

In the Spotlight

Tune in to the My Generation podcast to hear Carolyn Ross share insight on attracting and retaining senior employees.

Carolyn Ross

Carolyn Ross


As the world of work is changing at an ever-increasing pace, it is crucial for small and mid-sized companies to stay informed and keep up with the latest HR trends and practices. Doing so can help keep the business compliant, viable, healthy and growing, and make it a better place for all to work in the process.  


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