Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Asking great questions

I get asked a lot of questions. It's an occupational hazard as a teacher and trainer.  Some people are curious; some are trying to get to some missing piece of a puzzle; some want a kind of power. 

Much of our communication is transactional: we want questions to get a job done but not to do more than that. We don't always want to be influenced or even to have much influence; often we just want what we want.  If what we want is influence - either to sell or to manage or to teach - then we have to move to a new kind of question.

Great questions are not about information; they are about creating a channel through which information will flow. When someone asks a great question, we begin to connect in new ways, sometimes with the person who asked and sometimes with ideas or experiences that we had not connected before. That new thinking - that learning - can create it's own momenturm.

Think about that.  There is somewhere in your experience someone who asked you a question that made you think - and that made a difference.  It continues to make a difference, even if you no longer see that person who asked.  I remember the interviewer on a scholarship panel who asked me "If you can do math, why do you want to study English?"  I remember because I am still answering that question thirty years later.

That's a great question.
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