Is the answer “asking better questions?”

By August 8, 2016reinvention

This blogging every day is turning into a question and answer session with myself. And it is really working for me.

I think asking questions is the only way to solve problems, provided you answer them in a useful way. Note, I did not say ‘correct’. For most of human history the ‘correct’ answer was that the Earth was the center of the universe. You’d get full points on a test for that, but it wouldn’t help you solve the problem of why the planets sometimes moved in a strange directions in the sky. Or explain eclipses.

A central principle in my consulting work is that you have to answer questions in a way that allows you to ask better questions. To explain, I’ll take an impossible to settle question: Does God exist?

Yes and no are perfectly complete answers, but they don’t lead to more interesting and useful questions. Like ones that started with “If God existed…” Or “If God didn’t exist…” Or questions like, “Can God make a rock so big that he cannot lift it?”

I think this is how all human understanding progresses. Newton is bored in church one day, so, as he sits there, he stares up at the chandelier swinging back and forth. He starts to ask himself questions about the period and speed of a pendulum. And from questions like that you get things like laws of motion and calculus.

So what are some interesting questions I (or any of us) can ask? Here’s a few off the top of my head. Please add yours in the comments.

  • can you really solve a problem just by asking questions?
  • What’s the question you’re not asking yourself?
  • What are you afraid of?
    • that you should be less afraid of?
    • that you should be more afraid of?
  • What are you overlooking?
  • What gets you excited?
  • What squeeze is worth the juice?
  • Are you willing to pay the full cost for what you want?
  • What won’t you do? Can you define a life by nots?
  • what are you doing when you are at your best?
  • What’s your edge?
  • How do you work with people?
  • Is there a market for what you do?
  • Does what you do depend solely on you?
  • What is your strategy for dealing with fear?
  • Would you hire you to do what you are doing right now?
    • If not, are you doing it because you enjoy it?
    • If not, are you doing it because you are the only person who can?
    • If not, are you now searching for someone to hire?
  • Are we endogenous to the system or exogenous to the system?
  • What happened the last time somebody faced this situation?
  • Who can you ask for help?

Author Patrick

I help organizations figure out what they stand for and how to communicate what they believe. I also write fiction.

More posts by Patrick
  • Ian Seekell

    I have a short list of regulars:
    * Is what you’re doing RIGHT NOW helpful? (Sometimes re-worded to “Would a nap be more productive than whatever BS you’re doing right now?”)
    * What should you be listening to instead of this crap? (As much as I love my crappy music, there are so many great podcasts out there too…)
    * Is this a teachable moment? Can you look my kids in the eye and say “Remember this.”?

    • Those are great questions. Especially the nap one. That’s the “Ease up there Ripley! The transaxle is broken. You’re just grinding metal” moment for me.

      And if the nap doesn’t help. Dust off and nuke it from orbit. Only way to be sure.