When it comes to business and personal development, it's this: "What keeps you from saying that?" I learned it through Chris Argyris' writings on personal and organizational defensiveness. I use it regularly and I've taught my clients to apply it for themselves. It also saves time, energy and results in better information.
Our human make-up requires that question. In business most of us have a very strong need to be in control of our actions. We grew up that way. We feel good when we can control our actions to produce the results we're after. Truth be told, we hate feeling or being out of control. And if we were to say what we're really feeling, or what we believe to be the case, then. . . .
There are two especially important times when that question of yourself is profoundly useful: when we're dealing with issues that we think can be embarrassing or threatening. That's when you believe you shouldn't bring something up, the boss will be angry or theatened, or it's not appropriate. That's when you should use the question on yourself: "What keeps me from saying that?"
When I answer the question of myself and work over my answers--they're usually stupid. I can rather quickly move off the dime and state what might be embarrassing or threatening. The results are nearly always constructive. (Oh yeah, the more you talk about the undiscussable, the easier it gets, and the more you learn.)
One of the major contributions of technology is the dramatic change in organizations. Behavior is increasingly transparent--people can't hide things the way they used to. Twenty-five years ago I regularly met people in consulting who were information hogs. They believed in keeping info to themselves, thinking it would give them job security. But today, it's exceedingly rare to meet an information hog today. Nearly everyone knows that people have access to information that 30 years ago they could keep quiet. That makes it a lot easier to say things that were previously undiscussable--and a lot easier for people to respond to your statement.
Sometimes transparency is so widespread it just gets funny. A couple weeks ago the Journal reported that a Fordham law school faculty member and his class took Justice Scalia's plainly wrong comments about internet privacy seriously, and wanted to educate the justice on what was really available on the internet. They produced a 15 page document on Justice Scalia with his home address, phone number, his wife's personal email, the movies he likes, his food preferences and pictures of his "beautiful grandchildren."
The world is just a lot more transparent, and bosses know that too. There are far fewer legitimate reasons for not saying what needs to be said. Try it, and keep me posted on how well it worked for you. . . and how much more valid and useful you found the information.