6 ways of planning your company’s future using “answers without questions”

Nov 07, 2019 | 42Gears Team

In order to guide your company, you need a set of questions (What strategies should I use? Who should I hire?) and a set of answers to those questions (We’ll use this strategy. I think we should hire this person.). There are many times when you have questions without answers… but what about the times when you have a set of answers without questions? How is this possible? And most importantly, how can such a paradox help you think critically about the future of your business in new ways?

Let’s start with an example that is instantly recognizable for many science-fiction fans. In Douglas Adams’ science-fiction tale The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the number 42 is known as the answer to the “ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

Unfortunately, no one knows what ultimate question needs to be asked to obtain an answer of 42. Despite possibly being the most important information ever known in the universe, 42 has no real value to the protagonists of Adams’ story, because the question tied to 42 is unknown.

You might be wondering, How does this relate to my company? Anyone in the position of being a decision-maker for their company sees advertisements for “business solutions” on a daily basis. Just like the number 42 in Hitchhiker, some of these “solutions” might claim to be the answer to all of your company’s questions, even though such solutions do not immediately seem relevant to you. In this case, the “answer” appears to you without a corresponding “question.” 

Here’s the twist: you can go one step beyond Adams’ characters, and come up with your own questions based on the answers that appear before you. By generating (and then answering) your own questions, you can determine what is important to you, and insightfully plan for your company’s future. 

This kind of thinking might seem paradoxical, but we think it makes more sense with a few real-life examples. Following the old advice of “writing what you know,” we’ll be using “answers” provided by our company 42Gears’ Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution, and then working backwards from there to find questions for your company to ask. 

Read on to consider six answers that 42Gears provides through our solution; we will practice generating six questions from these answers.

1. Answer: 42Gears’ solution provides you with a centralized console to manage your fleet of devices. 

Can you imagine what sort of question might result in this kind of answer? There are as many valid questions as you can think up, but as an example, we’d consider this:

Question: How do I get a bird’s-eye view of my company?

If the information needed to make and carry out high-level decisions is scattered throughout your company, it will be hard to keep your employees working in unison. For one, you might struggle to find high-level insights about your workers’ productivity and workflows, and for another, you may not be able to coordinate a response to sudden changes (such as urgent software updates to resolve security loopholes). 

This could be harmful in the short term, as your company might struggle to deal with emergencies, and in the long term, because long-term changes will be difficult to anticipate. 

The insight: 42Gears’ solution helps to consolidate your company’s technology, but ensuring communication between departments requires a larger strategy that goes beyond software. Encouraging communicative corporate cultures, making physical work spaces conducive to interactions between departments, and frequently asking for worker feedback and analytics can help to keep your company working as a cohesive and adaptive unit. 


2. Answer: 42Gears offers customer service support 24/7 via phone, email, and live online consultation.

There are all sorts of questions that customer support can answer (that’s why the team is called “support!”) but for our purposes, let us consider this question: 

Question: What happens when your company doesn’t have all the answers?

You and your company’s employees are experts at what you do, so members of one team should be able to help the members of another team. This includes IT team members helping the members of other teams to keep their devices running smoothly. 

Even the best-prepared companies may sometimes encounter challenges that go beyond their current skill set. This can certainly include digital device issues, but outside help may be necessary for topics ranging from product development to conflict mediation

The insight: A company should know what external contacts are available for helping with challenges beyond its competency. 42Gears’ customer support provides an answer in the realm of managing a company’s digital devices, but other types of outside help may be needed as well. Employees should be encouraged to seek outside help (with the assistance of the manager) when needed; if an employee is afraid of humiliation and makes a guess in a situation beyond that employee’s competency, it could result in major issues for the employee and your company.


3. Answer: 42Gears’ solution features Remote Control functionality, allowing IT admins to control and troubleshoot devices remotely.

Although this answer could correspond to a simple question, such as “how do we repair devices?” you can gain more insight from the thought process of coming up with a more general question, and finding an answer for that, instead. 

Question: What is the true cost of a machine malfunction?

Take a moment to consider a scenario in which an employee’s computer does not function for two hours, resolved only when an administrator visits the computer and fixes the issue. The most immediate cost might be the loss of worker productivity, but there are other costs. The cost of transporting a member of your IT team to the computer, or shipping the computer to your IT team, is tremendous. Your IT team also loses time that could be spent more productively, and you will also need to pay for the IT admin to travel back to their home office (or for the computer to be shipped from the IT department back to its owner). Finally, there is also the risk of false alarms; if someone labels something as broken, wrongly, a lengthy repair process will be a waste of everyone’s time. 

The insight: 42Gears’ solution provides a solution for minimizing the true cost of repairs for computers, and your company can take additional measures to reduce the frequency of needed repairs. By building employees’ technological literacy and encouraging them to troubleshoot on their own, IT admins have fewer requests to contend with. Additionally, cloud storage solutions can enable employees to keep on working even if their personal computers are offline. By preparing both the employee and IT team for quick problem-solving, the cost and frequency of malfunctions can be reduced.


4. Answer: 42Gears’ solution allows companies to lock and/or wipe devices remotely.

Of course, this answer goes a long way towards answering a question like “how can we deal with theft?” Still, answering a question as straightforward as this one would provide little insight. This scenario invokes a broader question that can be more difficult (but more rewarding) to answer.

Question: If someone breaches corporate policy, intentionally or through negligence, how can you respond in a diplomatic but prompt fashion?

Even if an otherwise perfect employee loses a business device, this employee has committed a breach of corporate policy. This is only one of many ways that company devices might become liabilities. The issue at hand might be a deliberately reckless act such as connecting phones to compromised Wi-Fi networks, for example, or using company phones for both personal and business uses in ways that jeopardize the safety of trade secrets. 

You may feel inclined to focus on disciplining the employee, but your most urgent task is mitigating the threat created by the employee. If you discipline the employee without first addressing the technical side of the issue, you may appear hasty to your employees; if you delay disciplining the employee until the technical issue has been resolved, you may appear to be careless or disorganized to your employees. 

The insight: With 42Gears’ UEM solution, you can lock devices remotely, enabling you to neutralize risky device usage quickly. This way, you can remain on top of the situation and give all of your attention to finding the best way to communicate with your employees.


Of course, there are many ways to jeopardize company security that do not rely on digital devices. Your company should ensure that it has a plan in place to address a range of possible scenarios in which the company’s security has been breached. Not only will having this in place make your management team seem more professional, but knowing these rules were set in place ahead of time will make whatever discipline an employee receives seem more objective, and thus, more fair. 


5. Answer: 42Gears’ solution enables “kiosk mode” on iPhones and iPads, as well as devices running Android or Windows, allowing only pre-approved applications to function.

The term “kiosk” naturally implies a customer-facing scenario, and one valid question to ask would be, “How can I ensure that customers do not misuse in-store devices?” You should think about whether you can ask broader questions that encapsulate questions like the one in the previous sentence. In this case, such a question exists. 

Question: How can you structure your company’s spaces and devices in ways that encourage occupants to use them as you would like them to be used?

Devices need to be kept in kiosk mode to ensure that anyone interacting with the devices uses them as intended. This enables businesses to avoid the “worst case scenario” of someone tampering with a device. Still, this does not guarantee the “best case scenario” of a productive employee or engaged customer. Ideally, the people using your company’s devices and spaces will use them as intended because they are focused and motivated. 

The insight: Using 42Gears’ solution to block potential distractions is a great step towards shaping the experience you intended for the occupants of your workspaces, but there are also other ways to improve productivity. For example, the way you build and furnish your offices can have a big impact on how people react and respond to being in those spaces. Even the rearrangement of furniture in an office can have significant effects on worker focus and productivity. It may even be worth considering how the iconography of a workspace makes workers feel. For instance, small changes in workspace decorations can help women feel more welcome in fields perceived as traditionally male.


6. Answer: 42Gears’ Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution supports many operating systems and device types, including virtual reality (VR) headsets and smartwatches, including Apple Watches and watches running Google’s Wear OS).

As we reach the last example in our list, we’d like to demonstrate the sort of open-ended thinking about the future that can be especially productive for you when generating questions from answers. 

Question: How do you invest in a solution today without resulting in an outdated company tomorrow?

As hard as it might be to believe sometimes, every device businesses use was once brand-new. As many businesses know, when you invest in a big way in a particular operating system or hardware configuration, it can be very difficult to move away from that system or hardware years later. This results in entire networks running on obsolete platforms, as the cost of modernizing systems becomes more and more prohibitive as the technology grows more outdated. 

The insight: As 42Gears’ focus on adding new device types suggests, one way to “future-proof” your infrastructure is to invest in management solution that is not tied to any specific hardware or operating system. As long as your infrastructure can exist independently of any one specific type of device or operating system, corporate hardware and software can modernize without incapacitating the workspace as a result.


Future-proofing goes for more than just computing- it applies to everything from work culture and architecture to on-site food options. When deciding on a cost-effective strategy, businesses should ensure that even if the individual units of the system grow outdated (i.e. furniture), the system can support the evolution of those units (i.e. adding cleaner furniture without needing to radically alter the space).


Conclusion

As you look through potential solutions advertised to you in any aspect of your work, think about what questions are implied by the answers being given. Make a list of those questions, and then think about how best to answer them. In doing so, you’ll find your own way of planning for the future. 

You will be surprised by just how much you will learn from this process, but if you have any questions about devices, or the technical aspects of the answers you generate, 42Gears would be happy to help. 

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