The QDI Principle

A methodology for critical thinking that drives business pace & performance.

QDI Insights Illustration

What is Question Driven Insight?

The Question Driven Insight (QDI) Principle is a methodology for building the skills that fuel the world’s most enduringly successful businesses: critical thinking, great communication, and focus.

When we think critically, we surface breakthrough insights and ideas. When we communicate with impact, we spur others to action. And when we focus on the problems and opportunities that matter most, we move the needle.

And when we do this at every level of the organisation, we harness our collective intelligence to move further, faster.

Harness Ideas Move Faster

When should I use the QDI Principle?

The QDI Principle harnesses the everyday rituals your business is run on, such as quarterly business reviews and board meetings, and the reports you prepare for them.

By applying the QDI Principle to these activities, you’ll unleash your team’s collective intelligence by helping them think critically, communicate with impact, and focus on what matters. And you’ll turn every meeting or report into an opportunity to deliver actionable insights that spur your business to action.

QDI Principle In Action Graphic
The QDI Principle in action

See how Beazley used QDI to unlock strategic conversation

The QDI Principle can be used by anyone who’s involved in the everyday activities you run your business on, from board meetings to routine management reporting.

It can be adopted by individuals and teams, but its impact is greatest when it’s embedded across the organisation.

“We’ve adopted the QDI Principle to help us think through the questions we should be answering and the storytelling behind our reports.”

~ Rachael Turk, Beazley (FTSE 100 insurer)

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How does the QDI Principle work?

When you come to write your next board paper or management report, follow these nine tenets to load it with sharp thinking and convert insight to action. Select a tenet to find out more.

Critical Thinking
to react & adapt at pace
1. Tackle the tough questions

Questions are powerful. And the right ones get you to the crux of what matters faster.

Seek out the questions that are difficult to answer, and likely to surface uncomfortable truths. These are the questions you need to tackle head-on, and which will add the most value to your thinking.

Ask yourself...

Have I answered the difficult questions? Am I shying away from any uncomfortable truths?

2. Leave no stone unturned

Cast your eye over the questions you plan to tackle to identify gaps in your thinking, then fill them.

Your questions should have a sense of completeness to them, either as a flow of logic (What are the options? What do I suggest, and why? What do we need to do next?) or as parts of a whole (What went well? What went badly?).

Time invested in plugging gaps will deliver more robust and rigorous thinking.

Ask yourself...

Do my questions cover all the angles? Have I thought about all of my stakeholders, the risks as well as opportunities, and the internal and external contexts?

3. Charge thinking with insight

Challenge yourself to draw meaning from the information you’re using by asking “so what?”, and “what needs to be done differently as a result?”

Two simple questions will draw this meaning out - and provide vital fuel for your thinking.

Ask yourself...

Have I pulled out the “So what?” from the information I have presented? And is it actionable insight that will make a difference?

Great Communication
To align & inspire action
4. Your voice builds trust

Business writers often hide behind the passive voice. To the reader this comes across as unconfident and unwilling to take accountability.

But when the writer owns the message (whether it’s good news or bad), and shares what they think and feel with their reader, they display the leadership qualities everyone is looking for.

Ask yourself...

Is this my voice, and am I owning it? Can I build trust in my reader and get more value back by sharing a more candid picture?

5. The content is easy to follow

Writing, like a diamond, sparkles more when it’s cut.

To catch and hold your reader’s eye, shed long sentences, technical jargon, and complex words.

And organise your thinking under no more than 5 headings - the human brain (even the CEO’s) has to work too hard to deal with more.

Ask yourself...

Have I used simple words and short sentences, and explained the acronyms and jargon I’ve used? Do I have 5 or fewer main headings?

6. Key messages crystal clear

In the military, where communication can be a matter of life and death they call this the “BLUF”: putting the Bottom Line Up Front.

The principle holds true for a time-poor business audience. Rip up the rule book you were given at school and start with the conclusion before sharing your workings.

Ask yourself...

Are my key messages clear to the reader and summarised on page 1 of my report?

Focus on What Matters
To deliver vision, values & goals
7. Purpose & vision drive the ‘why?’

When everyone is pulling in the same direction, the multiplier effect is powerful.

But it's easier said than done. And so its important to keep asking 'why' you are doing whatever you are doing, to make sure it lies in service of the overall purpose and vision of the company.

Ask yourself...

How do I and my team help to deliver the vision of the company? How are we performing against this? And how will my proposals support it?

8. Strategy & plans drive the ‘what?’

Management guru Stephen Covey talks about the activity trap - climbing the ladder of success only to discover its leaning against the wrong wall.

By keeping your strategy and plans front of mind and by regularly questioning the link between what you're doing and what you intended to be doing, you'll save yourself from wasted work.

Ask yourself...

How do our plans and proposals support the overall strategy of the firm? And how have we performed against it?

9. Culture & values drive the ‘how?’

What makes the culture and values of your company worth more than the t-shirts they are printed on?

It's when we judge our plans and performance against them too. So give life to them in your reports.

Ask yourself...

How well is your team performing against not just your commercial goals but your culture and values too? How do your plans and proposals impact the style of organisation you are trying to build?

Is QDI Principle Right For Me?

Is the QDI Principle right for me?

Three core beliefs underpin the QDI Principle and unite the community who use it.

  • Our organisations are stacked with brainpower and we win when we tap into everyone's insights and ideas
  • We take decisions that benefit us and society when we have the full picture
  • We need to move faster to navigate challenges and make the most of our opportunities
QDI Lucia

How do you embed the QDI Principle at scale?

The QDI Principle helps individuals, teams, and organisations to think critically, communicate with impact, and focus on what matters.

But we know that new skills don’t form overnight. To create long-lasting change and embed new behaviours, you need a helping hand.

That’s why we’ve developed Lucia, an AI-powered software platform to help you embeds critical thinking, great communication, and a focus on what matters at every level of your business.

Learn about our reporting software
Collective Intelligence Book Illustration

Where can I find out more about Question Driven Insight?

The QDI Principle has been used by thousands of businesses to unleash their collective intelligence and improve board and management reporting.

Find out how you can do it too in Jennifer Sundberg and Pippa Begg’s book, Collective Intelligence: How to build a business that’s smarter than you. In this “essential guide”, Board Intelligence’s co-CEOs draw on their work with the world’s most demanding leaders and share the playbook that’s helped the most successful companies to keep winning, decade after decade.

Read the book

Apply the QDI Principle

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