Facebook Facebook icon Twitter Twitter icon LinkedIn LinkedIn icon Email
decision making smarter questions

Brain Circuits

Tips for smarter questions that yield better decisions 

Published 19 April 2024 in Brain Circuits • 3 min read

Over time, successful leaders develop a mix of questions that help them make decisions. Find out what your own question mix is and what you might do to update it.

Through extensive research and collaboration with executives, we’ve formulated a practical framework for the five types of questions to ask when making strategic decisions: investigative, speculative, productive, interpretive, and subjective.

At the same time, we’ve also created a tool to help people assess their questioning styles. The leader’s question mix is a self-assessment survey to help you determine your strengths and weaknesses and reflect on your decision-making process.

After you complete a brief questionnaire, you’ll receive an email from IMD that maps out your scores in each questioning area. Compare the totals for each section and focus your attention on the lowest-scoring sets.

When we offered a version of this tool to 1,200 executives, the combined results showed a fairly even distribution among the five styles we’ve described. However, individual answers revealed major imbalances. Many executives over-rely on one area of questioning and completely neglect another.

So, along with our online tool to help you assess your question mix – and, crucially, figure out your gaps – consider the following three tips:

1. Assess your repertoire of questions
Once you’ve established which types of questions you tend to ask, work to create a better balance that includes all five categories. Before your next decision-making meeting, review your weaker categories.
2. Change your emphasis as needed
Your question mix is a moving target, especially when transitioning into a new role, company, or industry. As you take on more responsibility, for instance, you’ll be allowed to take larger leaps. With every job change, review your questions to get into the bigger picture and other domains.
3. Make questioning a team effort
Find others who can compensate for your weaker areas. As a team, you can cover all the domains for more effective decision-making that’s also more inclusive.
Previous slide
Next slide


Arnaud Chevallier

Professor of Strategy at IMD

Arnaud Chevallier is Professor of Strategy at IMD, Director of the Global Management Foundations program, and Co-Director of the Complex Problem Solving program. His research, teaching, and consulting on strategic thinking bridges disciplines to provide concrete tools to improve decision making and corporate problem solving. He has written two books: Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving and Solvable: A Simple Solution to Complex Problems, co-authored with Albrecht Enders.

Frédéric Dalsace

Frédéric Dalsace

Professor of Marketing and Strategy at IMD

Frédéric Dalsace focuses on B2B issues sustainability, inclusive business models, and alleviating poverty. Prior to IMD, he spent 16 years as a Professor at HEC Paris where he held the Social Business / Enterprise and Poverty Chair presided by Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. Prior to his academic life, Frédéric accumulated more than 10 years of experience in the business world, both with industrial companies (Michelin and CarnaudMetalbox) and as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company. At IMD he is Co-Program Director of the Leading Customer – Centric Strategies program.

Jean-Louis Barsoux - IMD Professor

Jean-Louis Barsoux

Research Professor at IMD

Jean-Louis Barsoux helps organizations, teams, and individuals change and reinvent themselves. He was educated in France and the UK, and holds a PhD in comparative management from Loughborough University in England. His doctorate provided the foundation for the book French Management: Elitism in Action (with Peter Lawrence) and a Harvard Business Review article entitled The Making of French Managers.


Learn Brain Circuits

Join us for daily exercises focusing on issues from team building to developing an actionable sustainability plan to personal development. Go on - they only take five minutes.
Read more 

Explore Leadership

What makes a great leader? Do you need charisma? How do you inspire your team? Our experts offer actionable insights through first-person narratives, behind-the-scenes interviews and The Help Desk.
Read more

Join Membership

Log in here to join in the conversation with the I by IMD community. Your subscription grants you access to the quarterly magazine plus daily articles, videos, podcasts and learning exercises.
Sign up

Log in or register to enjoy the full experience

Explore first person business intelligence from top minds curated for a global executive audience