I spent the day today with my 3 year old son and was reminded again about the power of questions. He asked, then drilled down and then asked again until he understood.
How do we keep this genuine curiosity?
Questions are a fascinating way to learn the most amazing things. Whenever I play with a new golf partner, I always ask lots of questions. One of the most interesting ones is to ask what they do for a living and how they got into that business. The answers will always be fascinating.
Another interesting thing about questions is how sometimes the simplest questions can be the most difficult to answer. Often people ask what personal computer should I buy. Simple question but not a simple answer if you truly want to give them quality advice. A friend of mind, when given one of these not so simple questions would ponder it carefully and say, “That would take more than the few minutes we have, how about setting up a work session to discuss it.”
Another question that people in management positions must treat carefully. Sometimes a particular person will often ask the difficult question or the one you do not want asked. If you want good open discussion the questions such as this must be encouraged. If you wonder why nobody asked questions at your meetings, maybe the reason is how you treat the questions. If you handle it right, they are likely the most valuable part of the meeting. I always say to my audience, “when a question occurs to you, I want you to ask it because likely everyone has the same question and nobody is asking”.
Another thought. The way to keep awake in boring meetings, classes or presentations is to always be thinking of questions. If appropriate ask right away, if not make a note and ask later.
So even if the questions seem strange, treat them with respect. Do not be afraid to say you do not know.
I remember a story of a little boy who ask his mommy, “Where do I come from?” The mother took a big breath, a question she knew was going to come. Went thru a long explanation. The little boy waited patiently and the said, “Yeh, I knew all that, but Johnny said he came from Cleveland, where do I come from?”. Clarifing the question is something I never do enough.