Questions – Why should you be asking them?

“The art and science of questions is the source of all knowledge.” – Thomas Berger

As Learning and Development professionals, we certainly know that the usefulness of the knowledge we acquire, and that the effectiveness of the actions we take depends on the quality of questions we ask. Asking questions is an important skill we need to focus on in order to develop ourselves and our associates.

Everything we know in the world today was created because we as a human race have always been curious, we questioned and we did not stop exploring until we found the right answer.

As a society in general, our education has mostly been focused on knowing the ‘right answers’. Multiple-choice questions, quizzes and aptitude tests all reinforce the value of knowing the correct answers.

The world today is moving ahead at a tremendous pace, faster than ever seen before in the history of mankind. All the information you want is available immediately, in the palm of your hands. When you have a question, you ‘google it’. Quick fixes are synonymous with so many of us today and the ability of our brains to focus, think and question has reduced drastically.

“A paradigm shift occurs when a question is asked inside the current paradigm that can only be answered from outside it” – ‘The Art of Questions’, Marilee Goldberg.

Questioning is known to stimulate creativity, uncover fresh ideas, bring underlying assumptions to the surface, and questioning allows us to focus our attention and energy on one thing, which makes me think – Why don’t we allow ourselves to ask more questions? Why do we allow meetings to go on and on and end up feeling like they were a complete waste of time, knowing we could have steered the meeting in the right direction by asking the right questions?

Our role as trainers is to act as catalyst in this process, by identifying comfort zones and questioning everything we believe. Don’t blindly support a process just because it was always done ‘that’ way. Allow questioning.

Innovative companies question everything they do constantly and that’s the reason they keep growing, become stronger and are ready for the next challenge. Innovative companies are always thinking ahead, analyzing scenarios and asking questions.

Some tips to frame better questions:

  1. Is this a genuine question – a question to which I/we really do not know the answer?
  1. Is this question relevant to the real life and real work of the people who will be exploring it?
  1. What kind of conversation, meanings, and feelings do I imagine this question will evoke in those who will be exploring?
  1. Will this question invite fresh thinking/feeling?
  1. What assumptions or beliefs are embedded in the way this question is constructed?
  1. Is this question likely to generate hope, imagination, engagement, creative action and new possibilities or is it likely to increase a focus on past problems and obstacles?
  1. Does this question leave room for new and different questions to be raised as the initial question is explored?

Adapted from Sally Ann Roth, Public Conversations Project – 1998

Uday Nayak is a Training Manager for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. He is currently responsible for training and development at Sheraton in Dubai Mall of Emirates.

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