Finding "More Beautiful Questions"

We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough. - Niels Bohr

Asking a really good question is a bit like splitting the atom - full of potential energy right up until the moment the question is actually asked.

Warren Berger, who is writing a book, "an inquiry," he says, "into the value of inquiry," is interested in the kinds of questions that are answerable, even if the timeline for answering them is long. "The Quest to Ask Better Questions," The Atlantic:

[The search for better questions] has a Talmudic side. A question is a spiral that leads to more questions. But when does Berger stop questioning and settle for some answers? He explains that deep questioning can be the first step in bringing about change—but you also have to begin to act on those questions at some point. Berger is less interested in philosophical or existential questions that are basically unanswerable. 'I'm aiming for something a bit more practical,' he says. 'To me, a Beautiful Question is something that should feel important, meaningful, profound—but also potentially answerable and achievable. Once you've set your sights on a question like that, the idea is to really tackle it. These are usually very difficult questions to answer. You can't look it up on Google or—you have to grapple with it. You may spend months or years 'living the question.'

Better questions clarify, genuinely ask for input and raise the possibility of a breakthrough.

That means, of course, that question asking is terribly important to any business. Many successful innovations can be traced to that one insightful question. Berger in FastCo.Design:

According to Keith Yamashita of design consultancy SYPartners, 'In business, our ability to ask questions is an opportunity to reframe the challenges in front of us.'

But as Yamashita notes, that can only happen if business leaders are willing to question boldly. He says we’re coming off an era of 'small-minded questions' geared to efficiency: How can we do it faster, cheaper, where can we cut? 'But in order to innovate today,' Yamashita maintains, 'companies must ask more expansive questions.'

"Expansive questions" are always on tap at the IdeaFestival. Come. You may hear one that could change the course of your life or business for the better. Who knows, inspired by something you've seen or heard, you may be the one to ask it.

Stay curious!


Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee