One Best Answer

The One Best Answer

What is the One Best Answer to lazy questions?

It sometimes seems journalists have only one question, and they ask it in many different forms:

“Can you summarize your book in once sentence?”

“What is the single most important takeaway for readers?”

“What is the first thing people should do when introducing change?”

I try to answer these questions politely. Really.

At the same time I cringe at the apparent laziness.

So, I’m trying to come up with decent replies to deal with this.

Here are a few:

“The summary of Management 3.0 is that there is no one best way to a healthy organization.”

“The most important takeaway is that you should read. Your problem is not unique. Start anywhere.”

“Every change agent should start by drinking a good coffee. Successful change can take a while.”

“For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. – H.L. Mencken


What do you think?

What is the One Best Answer to such lazy questions?

p.s. I call them lazy questions because they take no effort on the part of the interviewer. More interesting question could be, “How does Management 3.0 compare with Servant Leadership?” or “Which forms of targets and incentives might be good?” or “Why are you describing practices when you believe we should be concerned with principles?” Alas, this requires thinking. And that’s hard.

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  • Wanja Krah

    Be lazy, refer everyone to the FALQ-section ‘Frequently Asked Lazy Questions’ of your website 😉 .
    However, are these questions lazy questions? I assume journalists asks these questions so their readers can quickly decide whether or not they should invest more time on the topic, or your book in this case.
    Your answers should thereby comply to the next criteria:
    – They should be simple and straight forward enough to let people know what they may expect to read when they decide to invest their time into the subject
    – They should be vague and open enough to encourage people to invest more time into the subject.
    However, that’s my assumption. You should verify assumptions first 😉

    • jurgenappelo

      OK, good point. Personally, I find them lazy because you can ask everyone the same questions. It’s like, “where do you come from?” or “What is your elevator pitch?” Indeed, there might be value in lazy questions.

  • Chuck Durfee

    I agree with Wanja. I think the best answer to those lazy questions is “it depends”. There is a lot of assumed context in these questions. Is the person reading the book’s summary a software delivery manager or a chef? Without knowing, you resort to obtuse answers that are of limited use. To Wanja’s point, though, they are of some use, which is why they keep getting asked.

    I like to view general questions like this as diagnostic feedback about my message, especially if I’m getting the same question over and over. If people are asking me the single most important takeaway for readers, for example, that could point to an issue with the way I market my blog (no book — yet!). Clearly it’s not as accessible to harried journalists as it could be. 🙂

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