The Importance of Questions

Thanks HSD for sharing this Chinese proverb (and many other insights I enjoyed through their newsletter).

A man who asks is a fool for five minutes.
A man who never asks is a fool for life.

I learned a similar principle when I was learning to speak Korean in my twenties, and living in South Korea. I learned that I was “going to make 1000 mistakes anyway — might as well get through them.” Those people that were with me that were afraid of making mistakes never learned nearly as well as those willing to make the mistakes and feel a bit stupid.

Many people I know are keenly interested in good questions. For lots of good reasons. Among them, the Albert Einstein quote, “if I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend the first 55 minutes trying to determine what is the right question…”

In this article, written with my friend and colleague, Kathleen Masters, we take on these aspects of good questions:

  • Is it meaningful?
  • Does it invite curiosity and reflective thinking?
  • Does it challenge assumptions?
  • Does it lead to other questions?
  • Is it simple?
  • Does it lead to possibility?
  • Does it welcome a quality of caring together?
  • Does it look for more than “yes or no?”
  • Is it well-sequenced?

What I continue to learn and encourage with others, is that if they want to become better at questions, to become radically curious. To embody a stance of radical curiosity is to open ourselves to the many subtle and intricate ways that life, and people, and projects, are deliciously interconnected. Behind questions is always genuine curiosity.