At one point in our lives, we would probably have eaten at least one burger. This article is about eating burgers, and how a seemingly “normal” act could educate us a little about thinking out of the box.

So, the million dollar question is:

HOW DO YOU EAT YOUR BURGER?

Most people would eat their burger upright (i.e. the way it is served) rather than to eat it upside-down, unless it was served that way!

Eating the burger “upside down” by Carles Rabada

The idea came from a discussion we had with a university mate over burgers and fries when someone casually mentioned that it’s better to consume the burger upside-down. According to articles he has read years back, it was recommended to eat a burger upside-down because of gravity.

The logic? Most of the sauce and juices from the ingredients would have gone downwards, soaking the bottom part of the bun. And to make matters more interesting, the top bun is usually bigger than that of the bottom.

That certainly did make sense, right?

But had you not read this article or heard of another person asking you “how do you eat a burger?”, would we have thought about the other possibilities of eating a burger? Sure, we could deconstruct the burger and eat every ingredient one by one. But most people default to eating a burger with their hands, and mostly not in an upside-down manner because that would require more effort to flip it around.

Deconstructing a burger. Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes

This question lingered on with me for a while until a particular incident where our corporate client asked for an “out of the ordinary experience” in the upcoming corporate training pitch and our team was so geared to clinch the deal.

The Definition

What do we mean by “flipping the burger”?

In this context, we mean flipping the question around in a way that sparks people to think about something from a different angle. Just like eating the burger, we do not naturally think of eating it upside down. But prompting someone with the possibility of doing so could spark a conversation in a dramatically different level.

To flip or not to flip? That’s the question…

Why not? What’s the fun in asking “How do we keep our good employees from leaving?” if we could entertain the fun of trying to drive our good employees away?

During our team discussion before creating our proposal, we asked this question to everyone, “What would you do to make your employees leave the company?”. Of course, the initial response was one of shock. Are they in any sort of trouble or in danger of losing their job? But soon enough, team members were on board with the question and started giving interesting ways to make good employees leave, and someone even came up with ways to make the CEO resign.

And so, we realized, asking questions that could elicit the emotion of surprise or shock could very well be the spark needed in getting people more engaged with your question.

The Art of Asking Questions

What is the reason for asking questions? According to Phil McKinney, an innovation mentor and coach, there are 5 fundamental reasons why people ask questions.

  1. You discover something new
  2. You put things together
  3. You remember things
  4. You resolve issues
  5. You understand people better

Asking questions helps one to understand something better. It starts from curiosity and leads to discovery. It helps one to connect the dots, see patterns and find solutions to problems faced. It helps one to understand the situation better, giving context to an otherwise random piece of information or news.

But not all questions are created equal.

There are many types of questions. The basics are like the simple Yes/No questions, to more open-ended questions or the 5W1H that we learned in English class. Some questions are rhetorical, some are used to seek better answers. But the most important thing is that we must understand WHY are we asking questions before we could understand what is considered a good question.

Ask Purposeful Questions

Knowing your purpose in asking the question is akin to half the battle won. Understanding what it is that we expect out of the question can help us to refine it better. The purpose is what allows us to determine what is considered a good question and what is a bad question. Below is a good definition of the purpose of a question by Teachthought.com.

What is the purpose of the question by TeachThought

According to Teachthought.com, a good question is defined as one that sparks thinking. It naturally produces more and better questions. It helps clarify understanding. It reveals the pathway forward. And it ignites hope.

A bad question is one that stops thinking. It leads to uncertainty (or fuzziness, as we call it). It obscures understanding. It reveals emotional or psychological “artifacts” (i.e. not the true state of the situation but a consequence of a flawed design or analytic error). And it brings about doubt.

Stay Focused. Do not get carried away with the fun.

As with all the fun we have, we need to be mindful of our goals. What are we trying to achieve with this reverse method? Are we trying to find ways to make things fun for the sake of fun, or are we experimenting with a different method with the hope of uncovering something interesting?

Coming back to the question, “What would you do to make your employees leave the company?”, it was indeed like going down the rabbit hole if the purpose of the question was not established. To make matters worse, they could think of unethical and illegal ways to drive employees away. But in our case, the purpose of asking the question was for the target audience to reflect on some employee alienation methods they mentioned to the reality that’s happening in the office. While it was funny hearing people say “kidnap their children” because it was illegal, when they flipped the situation around to seeing how parents are forced to work long hours without getting to see their children, it amounted to almost the same effect.

That was our purpose of asking the question in reverse.

Stay focused! Photo by Paul Skorupskas

Ask another person how they eat their burger and listen

After much talk about burgers and making employees leave the company, we hope that we’ve given you some food for thought. If you have some time, try asking another person how they eat their burger. Listen to their reply and ask some questions.

Michelle Lim

Michelle Lim

Creative Consultant, JCE Japan Creative Enterprise