A question of questions!

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”: Voltaire 

Question is defined as a sentence or phrase used to find out information, insight or intelligence.

We may have all experienced this. You are checking out of a hotel room after a few days’ stay. The lady at the checkout counter politely asks you ‘ How was your stay? ‘ And this question seems not to have changed over the years across time zones and continents. And in most cases, a polite yet non committal answer evolves  ‘ It was good ‘ (even though the stay may not have been).
What if (question?) we are asked ‘ What could we have done to improve your stay with us ? ‘ . The energy and the dynamic changes completely. Rather than go on auto pilot mode and offer the default response, you are buoyed by the keenness of the hotel staff to improve the guest experience and you end up offering honest feedback. The answer may not give them exactly what they want to hear. But it will give what’s valuable for them to learn.
As the old proverb goes ‘ Better to ask a question than to remain ignorant ‘.
What if Obvious Questions collide with Contrarian Answers? It’s a discussion worth having. When smart, committed people disagree about the answer to a question, it’s a question worth pursuing.
Progress or outcomes? There is no toss up- its got to be progress. Ditto with questions.
HR reviews could have better progress and responses if employees are asked ‘ What challenges are you facing now ? ‘, as that question presumes that challenges are the norm, not the exception. Rather than ask ‘ Are you facing any challenges?’ , when most will say no. They might fear that their admission will be seen as a weakness.
Good insights, contrary to popular wisdom, don’t come from a smart answer. They come from a smart question.
” We awaken by asking the right questions. We awaken when we see knowledge being spread that goes against our own personal experiences. We awaken by seeking answers in corners that are not popular. We awaken when we see popular opinion being wrong but accepted as being right, and what is right being pushed as wrong “- Suzy Kassem

16 thoughts on “A question of questions!”

  1. The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.
    Asking right questions are better than assumptions.

    1. Indeed. Thank you. If we all had the right answers, we would be ‘ Know It Alls ‘- a dangerous thing to be which leaves curiosity, intrigue, nuance, uncertainty out of the equation- effectively killing creativity, discovery, innovation, creativity, progress..

  2. Dear Sir,

    Firstly, thanks for this superb above article.

    I believe that, “mostly every question has its answer”!

    Besides, Questions are precisely effective means of communication for the right answer or solution and I do agree with the author, “Finding the right questions might be the very thing we need to doing ”.


    1. Thanks Tanseem- WHY is more than a 3 letter word- So, is HOW or WHO..quality input mean quality output..the same linear sequence applies to questions and answers

  3. Questions & Answers are two-sides of the same coin. Gautam Buddha encouraged his disciples to ask questions rather than listen to his discourse in silence. Akin to problems and solutions, questions and answers too complete each other, one cannot exist without the other.

    1. Indeed Imran. Thanks- Though, fortunately I feel it is not a chicken and egg situation- well put thoughts- good questions and honest answers can form a happy confluence in making things better

  4. Hi Suresh,
    I agree to your view, that smart questions help people to think intellectually. But many a times its misunderstood and bullied. Over a period of time people have been so cautions to avoid in to controversy, started asking “closed questions”, which eventually end up in “Yes” or “No” reply!!

    Thanks for sharing your view, appreciated.

    1. Thanks Bastian for your views- appreciate it- as you rightly pointed out, this is exactly what we have to guard against ie ‘ closed questions ‘ – as they say, if we continue to do what we have been doing, it is no surprise that we continue to remain where we are. Purposeful provocation through questions that can transform individuals, organisations & businesses for the better is the way to go

  5. Questions define a person’s path to progress in life, work, sports or business. When one is not afraid to ask the right questions, when a person does not fear the consequences of the answers, their journey will be exciting, challenging and rewarding.

  6. Well said. A question gets just an ‘answer’. A good question leads to clarity. There is no right answer or wrong answer. That depends on a few things. However, the response that provides clarity and actionable response is better than being right.

    1. Yes Ramesh, thanks, the fear of being wrong and the keenness to fit in puts the spanner in the work- freewheeling questions brings in the sense of clarity as you rightly mentioned- and clarity is the bedrock of all new possibilities and creation.

  7. Loved your article. Swamy Dhayananda once told a story. A monk approached a senior monk and asked him “ can I smoke when I am mediating or walking?” The senior monk emphatically said no. Another monk approached the same senior monk and asked him “is it alright if I meditated while I smoked? The answer from the senior monk was a firm yes!

    1. Thanks very much Ramesh- I reckon its a Question of perspective and ‘ framing ‘ or ‘ anchoring ‘as the Daniel Kahneman’s of the world would now call- wisdom oozed through Swami Vivekananda, isn’t it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *