Asking better questions is a skill like any other, in that you get better with purposeful practice.
A while ago I read Warren Bergers, A more beautiful question – The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas, and it got me thinking about the power of questions.
It’s an interesting read and builds on the idea of using the WHY, WHAT IF, HOW questioning system, which I love, because it encourages expansive thinking.
I’ve used questions a lot in my life, in fact my wife is forever warning me to stop asking so many damn questions, particularly when we meet new people. I must admit, I do ask lots of questions, but not for any other reason than because I’m deeply interested in people and what makes them tick.
Maybe that’s why questions aren’t asked so much by many adults, we get used to adults telling us, as kids, to shut up and stop asking them.
There is no doubt in my mind that question are a gateway to finding things out. I ask my wife about things from her past, about where she lives and what she did, and what other people in her life did etc. It surprises me how little she actually knows about a lot of people she has shared her life with.
Now don’t get me wrong, people have a right to privacy, they don’t owe anyone else an explanation. I don’t mind people telling me to keep my nose out of their business, but I do believe that questions provide us with an opportunity to get to know others on a much deeper level.
People often seem content with superficial conversation about what they watched on TV the night before and what such-a-person is doing or saying. Gossip can be quite interesting sometimes, although I try to keep away from it where possible, mainly because I don’t want to be viewed by others as a gossip.
However that level of conversation doesn’t really connect people to others, it doesn’t tell you much about who they are, apart from that they too like a bit of gossip or in some cases, thrive on spreading it, which gives a deeper insight into their personality, I guess.
Questions are also great for learning about ourselves, increasing self awareness. We may ask ourselves, why we do what we do and don’t do what we don’t do. What’s driving our behaviour? The answer’s, if given with honesty, can be very revealing. Sometimes people don’t ask these kind of questions, because they don’t want to know or admit to themselves, the answers.
It is surprising how much of what we do and don’t do is conditioned into us by social persuasion, often referred to as social conditioning. Conditioning is drilled into us throughout the duration of our lives, but particularly as young children, when we are particularly susceptible.
Questions are also a great way to spark ideas and innovation. Moving us away from the thought processes and work practices we have historically been accustomed to and instead opening up the opportunity to do them differently, and to find a better way. Why do we do it this way? What if we could do it that way instead? and then figuring out the HOW from that perspective.
Personally I like to use the following questions to remind me about not falling into the trap of doing anything that would be wasteful, unimportant or unfulfilling, when I would be better doing something else instead. I find it’s a great productivity tool. The questions should be asked in order.
- Why am I doing this, at all? What is my goal?
for example is it to make money, because it’s interesting to me, is it to gain or avoid something (such as not getting left behind or being able to add value to others). You should seriously consider this question and try to unlock your big WHY. This will help with the remaining questions. Use the 5 why’s method of questioning to dig deeper, so each answer you come up with, is followed by another why, do this, you guessed it 5 times. Doing this delves down to the emotional background driving forces of your thoughts and actions, and gives you an opportunity to question these.
- What is the opportunity cost of doing it? What else could I be
doing instead? Doing anything means not doing something else, both in terms of time constraints and economics, so consider what you’re missing out not doing. Remember time is the one resource we can’t recoup, once it’s spent.
- Is it worth the opportunity cost?
- Is there a better way of achieving my goal, instead of doing this?
- What other alternatives are available? Consider as many as you can!
So there you have it, questions are powerful, and if you haven’t read Warren Bergers, A more beautiful question – The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas, I would highly recommend doing so, here is a link to Amazon where you can read the reviews and even buy it.