Asking a More Beautiful QuestionIf our questions are so unimaginative and predictable that Google can guess what we’re asking before we’re even three words in, says Warren Berger, then we aren’t asking the right questions.
“It’s the questions Google cannot easily anticipate or even answer that we should be asking. Asking the right questions helps us figure out what matters, where opportunity lies, and how to achieve our goals.”
We are drowning in answers. What we need today are good questions. In times of great change, doubt is the norm, so good questions, not answers, have the edge. John Seely Brown says, “If you don’t have a disposition to question, you’re going to fear change. But if you’re comfortable questioning, experimenting, connecting things—then change is something that becomes an adventure. And if you can see it as an adventure, then you’re off and running.”
A More Beautiful Question, Berger shows how the most powerful forces for igniting change is the question. Example after example demonstrate how often off-beat “why” questions were at the foundation of many innovations. But he cautions, “Just asking why without taking any action may be the source of stimulating thought or conversation, but it is not likely to produce change.” He suggests the following sequence: Why? What If? and How? It brings some order to an otherwise chaotic an unpredictable process.
We must even question the questions. Neurologist Robert Burton says we should step back and inquire, “Why did I come up with that question? Every time you come up with a question, you should be wondering, What are the underlying assumptions of that question? Is there a different question I should be asking?”
Finding that one big beautiful question for you is not easy. It is a process—a way of looking at life. “You don’t have to be a recognized expert; you just have to be willing to say, I’m going to venture forth in the word with my question and see what I find. As you do this, you’re in a strong position to build ideas and attract support. Because, whereas people are more likely to ignore or challenge you when you come at them with answers, they almost can’t resist advising or helping you to answer a great question.
Live the questions.
(A More Beautiful Question has more than enough examples of questions that led to great ideas to fire up your brain. Interestingly enough, in place of a standard index, he has an Index of Questions.)
• Why do kids ask so many questions—and more importantly, why do they stop? (p.39-70)
• Considering that today’s schools were built on an industrial model, is it possible they were actually designed to squelch questioning? (p. 4-60)
• Should businesses replace mission statements with “mission questions”? (p. 162-165)
• How do the most innovative companies foster a “culture of inquiry”—and how can any business or organization do likewise? (165-174)
• What has worked for me before—and how can I bring more of that into my life now? (p. 193-194)
• Can I use productive “small failures” as a means of avoiding devastating “big failures”? (p. 199-202)
• Why did George Carlin see things the rest of us missed? (p. 39-40)
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