Whether you are talking to a SME, working with contractors, hiring a new employee or just about any situation you are trying to gather information, there is one question you should always ask:
What haven’t I asked that I should have?
Over the years, this question (or a variation on it) has served me countless times. Asking this question draws on the expertise of the person you are talking to. It causes them to analyse the conversation you have just had and compare it to their experiences and knowledge. It usually brings out the greatest gems of information. When talking to a SME, it has brought out time-saving tips and tricks or ideas that are revolutionary and innovative. From contractors, it has drawn on their greater experience on process and we were able hash out details that make the whole process of our working relationship smoother. It has saved time and money. With potential employees, it has allowed them to share the skills, interests and experiences that have not conveniently fit into the questions asked but that the candidate really wants me to know. It has been a way to discover hidden talents and interests so that the best hiring decisions can be made.
The reality is that as much as we prepare for conversations with others, we will not necessarily have the right questions to get all the information and this simple question, often covers that gap. Next time you are collecting information from someone, give it a try. Ask them, What haven’t I asked you that I should have? Experience the difference for yourself.