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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisabeth Medlock

Make this A Year of Inquiry and Curiosity: Ask the Right Questions

Albert Einstein said,"It's not that I'm so smart, but that I stay with the questions much longer." In this era of information and answers, are we forgetting to ask the right #questions? Or, why are we not asking better questions? Here are some ways to be #curious and #innovative.

Albert Einstein said,"It's not that I'm so smart, but that I stay with the questions much longer." And according to Oprah Winfrey, "Ask the right questions, and the answers will always reveal themselves to you." In this era of information and answers, are we forgetting to ask the right questions? Or, the better question, why are we not asking better questions? If you Google "the power of questioning" or "asking a beater or right question", you will stumble upon many TED talks, books and discussions stressing the necessity and impotence of inquiry, of being in the asking, of living in the middle of the questions.

I was inspired by the book A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger, the work of the Right Question Institute, and the books by Hal Gtegerson and his work on disruptive innovators The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators and Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life. This year I am applying three big lessons learned to foster the process of asking better questions in my life and work. I hope these are ideas you can apply in aspects of your life.

First, I am asking my daughter to ask more questions and fostering her curiosity. What hit home for me was the data that showed kids, at 3 and 4, ask about 300 questions a day. By middle school, kids ask about 1 question a day, and by high school, students ask only one substantive, content related question a month. And I thought about my daughter, a seventh grader, and realized that I already knew this, had experienced it, but had not actively encouraged her continued questioning. And for a few hours I felt like a horrible, lazy parent. Then I decided to act. I shared with her a quote from A More Beautiful Question,"knowing the answers will help you in school, knowing how to question will help you in life." And everyday I ask her to ask some questions about something she learned at school, saw in the news, or anything that sparks her curiosity. And we go about discovering the answers.

Second, I am trying to be more of an innovative disruptor, using some of the lessons learned from Hal Gregerson's research on innovative CEO's like Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Steve Jobs of Apple. What disruptive innovators do is constantly question the world around them and the status quo. One CEO began each day by asking "what am I curious about today?" and "what can I learn about the world this week?" So, I am also asking myself these questions. Innovators seek to challenge the status quo by asking WHY or WHY Not and What If. One of the questions I like the most is "what do we know that we don't know?"

Third, I am applying better questions in my work in coaching and consulting. The most powerful set of questions I am now using are these: Why, What if and How. Anne Frank said "the word WHY not only taught me to ask, but also taught me to think." Sheryl Sandburg says "The little girl who asks, why is the sky blue, becomes the woman who changes the world." From why questions at companies-"why are our customers not delighted," to why questions about life-"why am I not happier," the why launches the exportation into the What if. George Saunders says "the ten mullion dollar question is why aren't we kinder?" That could lead to questions like--What if we were more open, more trusting, less self fish, more preset, etc. Then we can ask How--How can I be more present each day, how do I deal with my fear of trusting others, or how can I shift my focus away from myself. The right question can be a game changer and a path to discovery.

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