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February 6th, 2020
We are taught to think that all questions are good, but questions are never equally effective.
We’re told there are no bad questions. This fosters the curious spirit by encouraging the inquisitive mind.
And this is a strategy that is great for children and beginners. We all respond well to encouragement. But after beginning, there comes a point when improvement depends on a critical analysis of our own performance. This is almost banal in most areas. Athletes track metrics of performance in order to see where things can improve by also figuring out where things aren’t going well.
The business world is replete with this kind of talk about optimization and efficiency.
But the most basic, core task in order to carry out these kinds of processes towards improvement has been left undisturbed and unimproved in it’s beginner’s state. That task is the Art of Questions.
We can still maintain that no question is a bad question while making progress with this subtle art.
A question’s first and most important metric is easy to measure, and it’s best evoked by another question. One that sharpens our view of the first.
Does our question inspire the action to explore?
If our question merely keeps us ‘deep in thought’, then the answer is ‘no’. And this is an important sign that it’s time to explore better questions.
If a question doesn’t propel you into the role of an explorer, either in the form of a researcher or someone who experiments with reality in order to get an answer from the source, then the question either fails on an emotional level or a practical one.
There might be enough emotion evoked by the question to keep our mind’s spinning for days and weeks, but this implies that it’s not practical enough because it’s somehow too vague which leaves us without a legitimate path in reality to explore a potential answer.
In the case of a question that is too large, it can benefit from chunking. Meaning, ask another question that addresses a small aspect of the first in a way that can actually be answered, and by this process slowly build an answer.
Otherwise, we can always begin again and ask an entirely new question.