Seek questions first, not answers

Great philosophers, scientists, journalists and business leaders have it. In our problem-focused world, though, it’s in short supply. ‘It’ is the ability to ask powerful questions, the prerequisite to creativity, insights and breakthroughs. Why the lack? Because it takes patience, humility and time to frame the right questions, writes activist and author, Fran Peavey. “Don’t be disappointed if a great question does not have an answer right away. A powerful question will sit rattling in the mind for days or weeks as the person works on an answer. If the seed is planted, the answer will grow.” Questions designed to elicit specific information have their place, but act as a limiter when the aim is to engage others in exploring possibilities, adds transformation expert, Tony Golsby-Smith. He nominates three questions guaranteed to kill innovation: “What’s the return on investment on this project?”, “Can you prove your case and back it up with hard data?”, and “Are you meeting your milestones?”. Innovating requires an entirely different set of questions, he says, because it “runs counter to so many of the standard tests and processes that make businesses (and executives) successful. It’s hard to accept that innovation requires exploring unknown territory via a winding road.”  As English philosopher, Francis Bacon, put it: “Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.”


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