Asking the Questions Behind the Questions

We all know it’s true. Every project is important and we need to start delivering those deliverables as soon as possible.

But – and this is a BIG but –

Before we start asking questions outside of the organization (consumers, target audience, external stakeholders, etc.), let’s take the time to ask ourselves a number of fundamental questions first.

If we don’t, we’re likely to board the wrong train on the wrong track, headed to the wrong destination. That is never a pleasant journey!

Asking the Questions Behind the Questions

You can feel it in the meeting. You can see it in their faces. You can hear it in their words.

“Sage, we don’t have time to contemplate our navels. We need to get this project going!”

Yes, yes indeed we do.

BUT, if we’re not clear on what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we will measure success before we even get started, we may as well forget the whole thing.

I think Pee Wee Herman put it best, “Everyone I know has a big but.”

Let’s talk about your big but.


Partners In Exploration

Being invited to ask questions is to be in a position of exploration, of curiosity, the place of possibilities and discovery.

I find it empowering and freeing – knowing that the answers will come, will reveal themselves in time.

Partners In Exploration

While my clients ask me to help them find answers, really we are partners in exploration.

Knowing that in the process, the questions are as important as the answers and insights we find, uncover and discover.

We never know where we may end up.

Having the courage to ask questions, and to also question the answers, is the beginning of all possibilities.

What questions will we need to ask to get you started?



Working Less While Producing More

I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to do work that I love with clients that I respect and enjoy.

In recent years I have also been blessed with a steady stream of new engagements that keep me fixed at my desk, my command post.

With all that being said, I feel it’s important for all of us to make space for things other than work in our lives.

Which is why, when two separate opportunities recently arose for me to take a full week off from work, I seized them – even though they both occurred in the same month.

It took a lot of preparation back at the command post to pull this off. But, as a result, I don’t think the time off negatively impacted my productivity.

In fact, just allowing myself the time to engage with a different point of view was tremendously refreshing and revitalizing.

For me it is like a gift from the heavens

Perhaps we workaholic Americans can learn something from Scandinavians about the relationship between time spent working and value actually produced.

According to a recent Icelandic study on the effects of shorter workweeks among government workers, spending less time working can actually increases your personal productivity.

The study, which included over 1% of the country’s total labor force, shortened workweeks from 40 to 35-36 hours while keeping pay levels constant.

Among the findings:

  • Productivity remained constant or actually increased
  • Stress and burnout decreased
  • Overall Health and Work-Life Balance improved

What do you think? Are you ready to give this a try yourself, or let your employees show you what they can accomplish in fewer hours?


Curiosity as a Career Path

An interesting thought occurred to me recently.

I get paid to be curious.

In its simplest form, my job as a qualitative researcher means having conversations with people – conversations where the questions I ask and the answers people share help me uncover, discover, and understand their feelings and needs, often in relation to a particular product, service, or organization.

Every conversation begins with a question, a spark of curiosity like, “Hi. How are you?”

Zora Neale Hurston

The fact is I can’t imagine not being curious. I am a diligent explorer in search of answers.

But I have to keep my mind open to whatever answers I discover, even if they are not what I had expected or hoped to find.

Fortunately, the joy I find is not in the endpoint but in the journey, the process.

So whenever someone asks me, “Do you like what you do?”

I always respond, “Heck yeah!”

Who knew that curiosity could be a career path?

Has this message sparked a question in your mind? Let’s talk about it.


Living in the Questions

In turbulent times, we can easily feel overwhelmed.

Social tensions. Incredible technological advances. The accelerating rate of change.

It often seems as though we have many more questions than answers.

Perhaps that’s the point.

Rainer Rilke

I don’t want to get all existential on y’all but, in times like these, I often return to the words of one of my favorite poets for solace and direction.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves.

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you
because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything.

Live the questions.

Rainer Rilke

Just something I’ve been thinking about that I wanted to share.

What have you been thinking about?



Corporate v. Creative

As a society, we love setting up false dichotomies. Because really, what’s easier to deal with (and write off) more quickly than good vs. bad, black vs. white, science vs. religion, bacon vs. the vegans? These never serve us well in the end, though, because it turns out everything is murkier and more mixed up than all of that.

Case in point: going corporate or going creative. As if, when you go into business, you turn in your creative card at the security counter. As if, creative are unfit for (and unwelcome in) the corporate world. Really, the opposite is true. Artists in all realms and genres, to be sustainable, need to be their own advocates and entrepreneurs (or have deep-pocketed patrons); and businesses sink without nimble and creative thought informing their decision-making.

Forward-thinkers in the corporate world know this. It hasn’t hurt that half of the big-time tech companies were started by kids, as a wild hare, in their garages. That narrative is compelling and catching. (A few examples here of articles and/or TED talks)

David Whyte takes this whole thing a bit further and says that feeding our creative souls in the work world isn’t just good business, it’s good for our souls – and the souls of our companies. He brings poetry – and poetic ideas – into the corporate space in order to illuminate what really matters.

heart aroused
At this time when there’s an almost hero-worship around hamster-wheel business, what a thought, to re-imagine what we’re doing within ourselves and within the world, and to marry the two. What a thought.

To learn more about or to purchase David’s amazing book, The Heart Aroused, check out his site .

Musings on Active Listening



So often, in our daily lives we ask questions without really caring about the answer (“Hi, how are you?”) or sometimes we’re so clear on what we want the answer to be that we hardly even listen for it. And then there are there times when we do care, but we just don’t stop to take the answer in.

Some of this, probably, is part of our naturally self-centered human nature. But we can probably all agree that it’s gotten ever harder to listen well in this, the age of distraction. Honestly, half of the time we’re doing something else while we’re asking – and while we’re supposed to be listening.

Thus the term Active Listening. Would you look at that? We’ve had to modify the original verb and make it sound more like a sport to really ensure that we’re all in!

We often say to our clients that while the obvious part of what we do is ask good questions, the more important part of the job is to listen, really well. Sometimes people think they don’t have the bandwidth for truly active listening if active listening implies single-minded listening or total presence. We’re busy! We’re in hurry! What a waste of time!

Our experience has been the opposite. Listening like this – actively, curiously, and without multitasking – it’s how we as business people and human people are our most productive. And our most connected. True thoughts, ideas and feelings get received – and responded to. Work happens more efficiently, progress happens more productively, stakeholders are happier. What’s not to love?


Core Values

As a consultant, I reflect important truths back to my clients – who they are, what they care about, how they’re doing, how they might change. These are truths that seem like they’d be self-obvious, but they’re not. Honest awareness of identity isn’t any less daunting for a business than it was for each of us at 17.

Mission statements and core value statements are really just that, though. Companies and organizations becoming self-aware and then getting their activities in line with that awareness.

I couldn’t help but smile over this article that uses some highly-recognizable businesses to illustrate how specific, how creative, how confident and how fun identity-making can be. (A lot more fun than it felt at 17, don’t you think?)

Click here to enjoy it with me





Sage Baker Consulting has a new look to complement our curiosity, enthusiasm and forward-reaching purpose. Please, have a look around! And don’t hesitate to get it touch if we can serve you in any way.