Sometimes easy answers are just too easy, and aren’t the best answers. Often the best answers are questions that force us to dig deeper into the issue. Good questions can challenge our assumptions and lead us down another path than the easy answer would. Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, said “Good questions outrank easy answers.”
Take the time to ask questions and you will see that you and other people will learn more even if you think you know the answer.
Questions help get to the right answer. We have heard about the five whys of consulting – asking why until you uncover the root cause. Peter Drucker says the best consultants work by simply asking a few questions. People are better connected to the outcome if they are part of developing the plan.
Here are a few ways to ask questions that helps others discover the right answer for them:
“How would you go about accomplishing this….” then listen to their ideas.
“What would happen if…” then challenge different assumptions in the answers being presented.
“Have you thought about…” then offer alternative options to be discussed.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
The right questions help solve the right problem. The human mind is a wonderful machine that is a problem solver. When you pose a question, it works tirelessly to seek the answer. The key to solving the right problem is to ask the right question.
If something is not working, we might ask ourselves and our team, “Why can’t we accomplish this?” That is the wrong question because all of your energy will focus on understanding the ways you have been deficient and uncovering reasons why you can’t succeed.
Instead, in the same situation the right question is, “What does it take to accomplish this?” With this question you and your team will begin to identify all that needs to happen to succeed. Once you have solved that, your next question should be, “How can we deliver what it takes to succeed?” and so on until you narrow down the right answer to the right question.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein