Sunday, March 9, 2014

questions are rising in value while answers are declining

Yesterday I read A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger.

A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger is about the importance of asking thoughtful, ambitious "beautiful questions". The kind of questions that can bring about change in the world around you. A fair amount of the book is focused on the need to ask deeper, better questions in business, education, nonprofits, and life. This really resonated with me.

Educators, parents, board members, students, and anyone who cares about creating change should read this book.

The title, A More Beautiful Question, is inspired by the line from the poet e.e. Cummings: "Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question." 

There is a definite link between good questions and innovation. 

When entrenched practices and approaches grab hold, when we keep doing what has always been done, when our impulse is to keep plowing ahead, that's when we need to step back and question whether we are on the right path.

Why? What if? How?

Warren Berger says:

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something - and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.
The Pulitzer Prize - winning historian David Hackett Fischer observed that:
Questions are the engines of intellect - cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry.

Dan Rothstein of Right Question Institute believes:
Questions do something that has an 'unlocking' effect in people's minds. It's an experience we've all had at one point or another. Just asking or hearing a question phrased a certain way produces an almost palpable feeling of discovery and new understanding. Questions produce the lightbulb effect. 

One of my favorite parts of this book had "the lightbulb effect" for me:
Clearly, technology will have answers covered - so we will no longer need to fill our heads with those answers as much as we once did, bringing to mind a classic Einstein story. A reporter doing an interview concludes by asking Einstein for his phone number, and Einstein reaches for a nearby phone book.  While Einstein is looking up his own number in the book, the reporter asks why such a smart man can't remember it. Einstein explains that there's no reason to fill his mind with information that can so easily be looked up.

 As well as this bit about Seth Godin and education:
Godin and others believe that in attempting to modernize old models of schooling, we should start by asking some basic questions about purpose. Godin offers up this query as a starting point: What are schools for? (That question  could also be phrased as Why are we sending kids to school in the first place?)
Stop to consider Godin's question, although there's no one answer to it, many would agree that at least part of the answer could be summed up as "To prepare students to be productive citizens in the twenty-first century." 
That, in turn, raises another fundamental question: What kind of preparation does the modern workplace and society demand of its citizens - i.e., what kind of skills, knowledge, and capabilities are needed to be productive and thrive?

With beautiful questions leading to more beautiful questions, we are off and running. Now, this is a conversation of which I would love to be a part. 

I will leave you with these beautiful questions to get you started:

"What do you want to say?"

"Why does it need to be said?"

"What if you could say it in a way that has never before been done?"

"How might you do that?"

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