I thought I would have all the answers when I would grow up.
How about you? What were your aspirations? How did you envision adult life?
With some years and wisdom, I realized that life is not as simple as I originally envisioned. And being an adult is not so simple. Sometimes I miss the simpler times when my most difficult decisions involved LEGOs.
More than answers, I realized that perhaps questions are more important.
A case for answers.
As we go through life, we gather experiences and develop perspectives. After some success and a track record of being right – or at least being right often – we may develop convictions on specific topics. We may be sure that our view is correct. Sadly, that doesn’t mean that it is.
In our increasingly globalized and diverse world, we get to encounter situations where entirely unfamiliar dynamics are at play, where the logic and rules we are used to living by do not apply – at all.
Another truth that becomes apparent is that even in our home country, many perspectives that co-exist. Being a woman, a senior, a trans person, Ph.D. researcher, or a farmer will profoundly impact one’s life experiences. Our world is also constantly changing, so what was true yesterday may no t be today.
So that knowing everything is a pointless race.
Someone who mistakenly believe that they know everything closes themselves to new perspectives.
Is there a better way?
A case for asking the right questions
Trying to know everything is like having a really, really big storage unit. It’s clumsy and hard to maintain.
The skill of asking good questions is like being a nimble sailor and skillfully navigating currents letting the winds of inspiration guide us toward the right answers. Or more questions.
All that is needed is being present, open-minded, and curious. A good dose of self-awareness is also useful.
This way, it’s enough to have a JIT or just-in-time approach. Is there a decision to be made? Seek diverse points of view. Try to disprove your own idea or point of view. If you fail, after several attempts, it’s a good sign.
With diverse teams that have an inclusive culture, so much knowledge and wisdom are present. A few questions can help you reach the specific information or insight that you need.
Research has shown that diverse teams outperform their peers. This is why. As my dear friend Raman says, what I know is never as powerful as what we know.
When we innovate, we create new solutions and connect dots in ways that have not been done before. It wouldn’t be called innovation otherwise.
Asking the right question can invite reflection, which can lead to looking at the situation or challenge from a new angle.
Many innovations were born where someone asked their team “What if”
When conflict, it is often because of a difference in expectation or understanding. The best route to resolve the situation is to seek to understand. It is best achieved but asking questions.
Here questions are useful but have to be used carefully. Asking someone directly “Why” they did someone can sometimes come off as accurate. So tact is needed. Tact comes with experience, and experience comes with mistakes. Failure is a great teacher.
A powerful activity is co-creating when two or more people come together and use their strength, insight, and experience to create something better than anyone person would have been able to create on their own.
Here, asking questions about other’s points of view and reaction and perspective can be very powerful.
One area where this happens is when an organization decides to co-create a third culture. Instead of following the cultural norms of one of the member cultures, they are taking the best each (or inventing something entirely different) and crafting a culture ideal for all members of the group.
For this to happen successfully, we need to ask many questions ourselves and those around us. We need to be able to ask them tactfully and be able to listen fully and be present when we have gifted the answer.
Developing Your Question Asking Kung-Fu
It started with a question: What would you love to create? This sets the heading.
It’s how you show up. Be present and listen deeply. Put away the source of distraction. I’d minimize even note-taking. Just listen.
The three keys to success in a globalized world come back again: humility, patience, and an open mind.
Be humble; sometimes, your original idea will be proven to be wrong.
Be patient with you and your team. This process may take time. Take all the time you need.
Be open-minded; some of the ideas will be new and may seem wrong at first. Especially if you are not fully present and, instead, you stay in your past and your assumptions.
Finally, be curious. If your intuition nudges you in a direction, follow up. Think out loud. Go deeper. Then go even deeper. Humor ideas that, at least, seem very silly.
You are on a quest. Enjoy the ride.
What is the most powerful question you’ve asked or heard?