Expert Interviews 7: Hypotheticals

Man's hands clapping in front of a laptop

This lesson will help you deal with hypothetical questions and discussions.

Introduction: 

Some projects involve innovative solutions. In order to assess the viability of such a solution, it may be useful to speak with an expert who is skeptical. They may not believe your solution will work as planned.

This lesson may be challenging, but your teacher can help you with it. 

Warm Up: 
  1. Think of a past disruptive innovation. 
  2. What was at least one bottleneck issue that held it back from becoming mainstream? 
  3. Imagine you were talking to a critic before it became mainstream. What might you say if they thought the bottleneck issue was impossible to overcome?
Language: 

Your teacher will give you a case to work on. Discuss it now.

If you don't agree with the expert or if they push back against some of your ideas, usually the thing to do is understand their point of view—in other words, find out, "Why?" Then, explain your point of view, and finally find out if your hypothesis is feasible. 

A. Find out why

Discuss how long the explanation is expected to be from each of these questions.

  1. Why's that? 
  2. How come? 
  3. Could you explain how you arrived at that? / Could you take me through your reasoning?
  4. This is interesting. I'd like as much background [on this topic] as you can give me. 

Practice: Ask your teacher how long they think it will take the innovation mentioned above to catch on. Be sure to ask follow-up questions and understand their reasoning.

B. Explain your reasoning

After understanding their reasoning, you can explain your own reasoning. 

There are many ways to explain yourself. You can use facts, data, and details from a proven case study. You can also compare a new idea with a similar, proven idea.

  1. We see this as being like [...].
  2. Think about what happened with [...]. They went from [point A] to [point B].
  3. A good analogy is the [...] market.
  4. Would you say that [...] is an appropriate model?

Practice: Compare the innovation to a proven case.

C. Ask if it would work

Putting the scepticism aside, ask if it would work.

Let's first establish what kind of grammar is used for hypothetical questions and how grammar can frame the likelihood of an event. For the following, what is the likelihood of solving the problem?

  1. If we could solve [the problem], what would happen? 
    • Likelihood: __________
  2. If we solve [the problem], what happens? 
    • Likelihood: __________
  3. When [the problem] is solved, what will happen?
    • Likelihood: __________

Practice: Your teacher will give you potential situations. Ask if they would/will work.

Practice: 

Case

A large auto manufacturer in India is looking at implementing sustainable supply chain management. However, a number of hurdles have been identified. Your team is working with colleagues from around the world to come up with innovative solutions. 

Now you are speaking to an expert in India who is very knowledgeable about local business practices and supply chains, but is less knowledgeable about sustainable practices. He is sceptical of your plan. 

Hurdle 1: ​​​​​​Lack of customer support

Essentially, customers in India are not supportive of sustainability measures yet. Without local customers, profitability may not be reached.

Findings: However, two recent surveys have shown a significant increase in awareness of sustainability within the last year. You believe awareness will 

Discuss this hurdle with your teacher, do the following.

  1. Ask the expert a general question about the topic.
  2. Ask at least one follow-up question to understand the expert's point of view. 
  3. Explain your own reasoning or findings. and ask about feasibility.

Hurdle 2: Inadequacy of some top management commitment

Details: Sustainability is a strategic issue which is not possible without the support and commitment of top management. There are six executive-level managers.

Finding: one of them is firmly opposed, two are ambivalent and three support the initiative. Of the three in support, one is a powerful advocate for this project.

Discuss this hurdle with your teacher, do the following.

  1. Ask the expert a general question about the topic.
  2. Ask at least one follow-up question to understand the expert's point of view. 
  3. Explain your own reasoning or findings and ask about feasibility.

Hurdle 3: Lack of trust among supply chain members

Details: The issue of trust among supply chain members plays a significant role. Lack of trust is a hurdle for collaboration. Building trust in the Indian market is said to take many years.

Finding: Your team has identified a number of growing companies who are focused on sustainability. They are small, but growing rapidly.

Discuss this with your teacher, then do the following.

  1. Ask the expert a general question about the topic.
  2. Ask at least one follow-up question to understand the expert's point of view. 
  3. Explain your own reasoning or findings and ask about feasibility.