Saturday, October 22, 2011

Three Dimensions to Shape the Great Questions

The answer from yesterday is not as critical as the questions about the future.

We’ve been living in such a dynamic world, change is the only constant, actually even change itself has been changed and expedite. The world is transforming from personal computing into digital computing, from globalization into globality, from knowledge limitation to information explosion, the answer about yesterday is not as critical as the questions about the future. How to ask the right questions is not only just the raw intelligence to reflect human’s intellectual curiosity, it becomes the new skills need be sharpened and focused on, to co-solve the common problems and co-create the better world. Stay hungry and foolish, to challenge the outdated rules or culture, to perceive the invisible and spark the collective wisdom and new thinking.

1. The Art of Questions

Like a piece of art, the great question is beautiful and insightful, to spark imagination, connect the dots with our own personal experience and appreciation, make us feel engaged in the exchange. The art of questioning is to ignite innovative thinking, the essential to questioning also stimulates the creative sides of our brains in order to find answers. A great leader is one who has all the questions but not all the answers: How to see the things as a whole, from management perspective, it’s to see through the spirit of organization, it’s to ask the open-ended questions about the structure, the process, and the culture, it inspires the fresh thinking about the legacy issues, the new angles to see the unsolved problems.

Albert Einstein’s quote: “We can’t solve the problem with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The art of question is also much more about the communication, we all desire to seek and participate conversations, it’s the part of human nature, and the whole world can engage in a big conversation to change for the better through social networking.

2. The Science of Questions

The effective questioning is also about the science, it’s tough and direct, critical thinking, logic and the reasoning. Direct questions are not necessarily meant to offend. Through the science of questions, such as 5 Ws and 1H: What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who, we search the patterns, get quantified answers and qualified information, to help us make the wise decisions and plan the better scenario.

The science of questioning is about asking the right question at the right time with the right person for the right information, it is also based on the art of listening, it’s the attitude, the trust, it’s the soft science of communication embedded with hard science of problem-solving capability, the robust questions in a way that helped us "dispassionately" examine alternatives, it’s synthetic process to stimulate the whole brain thinking. The science of questions is also about fact finding, the analysis, the structured thinking, the objective evaluation and comparison, the progressive pursuit of better solutions, it’s human’s cognitive improvement.

3 The Philosophy of Questions 

Assume nothing, Question Everything. There is no such thing as a stupid question. All top philosophers will tell you this:
  • Socrates (Socratic Method) a series of questions that are asked not only to draw individual answers but also to encourage fundamental insight into the issue at hand. The Socratic dialogue that helps people reaches their own conclusions about what can be done to improve a plan or project, which, of course, leads to much more ownership and learning.
  • "The three peers, which must have my teacher and I chose him in good to learn from him” - Confucius The questioning culture will cultivate the learning attitude, step out of our comfort zone and become the lifetime learner. 
  •  “We can’t solve the problem with the same thinking we used when we created them.”- Albert Einstein
  • “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” –Shakespeare.

Provocative questions initiative - seeking mysteries and paradoxes that the questions for which there were no answers were the ones worth asking.
  •  “A prudent question is one-half of wisdom" by Francis Bacon
  • “The future of leaders leads by asking” by Peter Drucker

In summary, how to ask the good questions is the art, the science, the philosophy, and the management discipline. Though you need to have the sensitivity to the cultural difference, the criteria of great questions should not have a border, just like the true art and science are timeless and without boundary. Through effective questioning, hopefully, we can re-imaging the life potential and re-unite the humanity.


Great post Pearl. It's interesting but the cultures that are going to gain expotentially from this type of direction are the (ex-)Communist countries, since their entire existence has been enforced as one of 'disallowed incentive'; having lived with practically one single option 'the discipline to follow and obey'. It will take a generation or so for these citizens to free themselves from such boundaries and from there, who knows the magnificant of their creations and results.

HI, Linda, thanks for the comment, I would say, social system, history, technology, education., etc, all are the key factors to influence the culture, the human society should walk the talk, make the progress, to think the issues via different angles and lens, that's the reason the art of questioning is more critical than the outdated answers. thanks.

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