What you will learn from reading A More Beautiful Question
– An insight on how beneficial it is to question the reality we are in.
– What kind of questions are best to tackle problems.
– How to deconstruct questions so you can follow an easy step process to problem solving.
Book Summary Acronym - Remember More
A More Beautiful Question Book Summary:
In todays world, our lives evolve around search engines. Need an answer to something… google it. Need to know how something is done… youtube it. We constantly have the worlds knowledge at our fingertips, but what does this mean for the value of answers themselves?
Warren Berger talks about the importance of questioning and how in todays climate people are more likely to be hired for their questioning ability rather than their access to answers. Questioning allows us to take what we already have and look beyond, see what others haven’t and then slowly make that fantasy a reality.
He explains the step process of questioning by breaking into into 3 parts, why, what if and how. I can’t stress enough how important the ability to question is. I personally measure intelligence on the ability to question things and not take everything at its face value. Definitely worth a read!
The Power of Enquiry
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.
We need to have the ability to question our reality. Our reality consists of static rules being put in place, but the problem with this is that human nature is forever changing, so it is only inevitable that it will need updating at some point, and from this is the need to question.
To notice that our reality needs questioning, we need to be aware. Our awareness allows us to question what is true and what is false.
If I ask myself ‘ what if I think differently about this,’ I am contesting reality and creating my own reality. One where there are endless possibilities and therefore this engages our imagination and creativity.
By embracing ignorance we realise that there is plenty of room to question, and therefore plenty information to acquire.
Types of Thinking
- Divergent thinking – triggering random associations.
- Convergent thinking – focusing more on the core of a problem.
- Meta cognitive thinking – reflecting upon their own questions.
Open questions: Generally tend to encourage creative thinking more than closed yes or no questions.
Depending on how you ask a question will yield different results. E.g. questions with a more positive tone will tend to yield better answers. They are also very contagious and affect the people’s perspective around you.
It takes something big to shake people out of their belief in their reality and make them start questioning it. E.g. something happening to a business, they have to adapt or they go bust. Adaptation = questioning
With today’s technology, such as Google, answers are easily accessible, this means the value of answers decreases. Considering the relationship between both questions and answers. If the value of answers falls, the value of questions increases.
We need to ask proactive questions to provoke us and others into a way of thinking about the problem at hand.
Give people as little hints as possible so that they have to fully work the concept out
When people take ownership of their own questions, they feel more motivated to find the answer.
Basic formula: Q (questioning) + A (action) = I (innovation). On the other hand Q-A = P (philosophy)
Preparation/ incubation/ illumination/ implementation
Why We Stop Questioning
Questioning is seen as something that just occurs. It is our brains way of trying to fill a gap of knowledge. But like any system put in place, we need to question it, and so when we question our ability to question we notice that it has room for improvement.
We question automatically which means we rely on it to be automatic and therefore something that doesn’t need extra attention… this is not so.
If we only question the bare minimum, we lose interest in questioning and therefore learning. E.g. when kids at school lose interest in questioning, their engagement also goes down.
We need to learn to look at things in a different light, step into someone elses shoes so to speak.
We as human beings love to find patterns. Patterns = the chance to predict. So by questioning, we are training ourselves to see patterns, and this in turn can lead us to asking the right questions. The more you question the easier it becomes.
If a system is based on asking one-way questions, then only the people with knowledge would be able to question. Therefore a system should be built on asking linked/ open question, to incentivise others to ask more.
The Why, What If, and How of Innovative Questioning
When experts approach a problem their questioning ability is generally restricted by the goal they want. This is why having a non-experts opinion can come in handy as they don’t have this restriction in place. The mind of the beginner is empty, free of habits of the expert
If ‘what if’ is about imagining and ‘how’ is about doing, the initial ‘why’ stage has to do with seeing and understanding.
Consider reality from a naive perspective. Stop knowing and begin to wonder
We delude ourselves into thinking that feeling is knowing, and therefore what we feel must be the truth, however the feeling of knowing is just that – a feeling, or a sensation.
Questions that challenge the prevailing assumptions are useful and sometimes catalytic – but they can also be flawed themselves. Assumptions and biases of our own may be embedded in the questions we ask. One of the ways to find out is to subject those questions to questioning. A great way is to ask five ‘whys’ about your question, this opens it up and shines a spotlight on any areas that may be biased.
In some instances, try to either narrow or broaden your questions. E.g. worldwide vs backyard
The words ‘what if’ have a more expansive effect
Connective enquiry is a bi-product of questioning whereby it allows us to combine ideas or influences that, in the surface, have no logical or natural connection – yet, once combined, form something powerful.
The most creative ideas result from long distance connections (bringing together ideas that seem unrelated and far apart. E.g. do not merely ask what if we combine A and B? But rather what if we combine A and Z?
The brain doesn’t like to spend a lot of effort doing things. Every time it comes across something new it has to use a bit of energy to process and store that information somewhere. Unless it’s a threat, the next time we come across it, we don’t have to spend as much energy processing it. So with this being said, it is only natural that the conscious brain is resistant to wide open idea generation and far reaching connective enquiry. The mind is inclined to try to solve problems by doing the same things over and over, following familiar and well worked neural paths. The idea then is to force your brain off those predictable paths by purposely thinking wrong – coming up with ideas that seem to make no sense.
Ways to think wrong
Thinking differently or ‘wrong’ gets you out of the habits of how we think, this loosens the reins and allows us to think up different question that wouldn’t be there otherwise.
- Take two random words from the dictionary and combine them
- Think of something that doesn’t work (oven that can’t cook)
What if you were to take away the function of an object so you only have the shell of it. Then think of a function for just the shell of it and then once you have found something, add the original function back on and see if they match.
A prototype is a question embodied
Don’t wait until an idea is perfect or polished, for it to perfect it has to be tested, we need to be able to trial our ideas and see where the errors are.
The nice thing about the ‘how’ part is that it assumes there are solutions out there – it provides creative confidence.
We learn from the problems, this way we can ask more questions and are further down the path to perfecting it. (Even though there isn’t such thing as perfection).
Drawing on other peoples experiences and resources is often far better than going it alone. Diversity fuels creativity. However, moderation is key between the working alone and working with others.
Questions in Business
A company needs to have a rooted purpose. It needs to be outward looking so that it is more likely to see areas that need questioning in relation to its product.
By knowing your businesses question of identity, it is easier to tackle other questions because you are now grounded.
Ask yourself ‘what if money was not a problem’… this remove the restrictions that stop you from thinking freely.
The world is forever changing, this is the law of human nature, everything is adapting and therefore changing. When we assign systems or static rules to human nature it is inevitable that it will at some time prohibit us from growing. Questioning allows us to see what to adapt to.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. Charles Darwin
By articulating the company’s mission as a question it tells the outside world ‘this is what we’re striving for – we know we’re not there yet but we’re on the journey.
When the whole business has an inquisitive nature to it, it makes people more likely to explore new ideas that might not have been an option before. The only thing with questioning is that it can sometimes have the connotation of challenging authority, this, in turn, makes people apprehensive to question. A great way to deal with this is an anonymous questioning system which can be voted by colleagues.
Defer judgement to allow yourself to explore ideas to question. Judgment can also come from people in the environment (e.g. boss, colleagues). You need to build a safe working environment to allow for this.
Questions for Life
A leader needs to have one purpose they’re rooted to. The same with a business. E.g. Nike does numerous things but they are rooted in athletes improvement.
You don’t just find big answers. Big answers normally come about from lots of little questions that allow you to piece the pieces of the puzzle together.
Improve the ability to ask questions. The more you do the easier it gets.
Step back and look at the whole picture. You will reveal a bunch of questions you didn’t see before, and your original question might change with the new information acquired.
“If Einstein had an hour to solve a problem and his life depended on it, he’d spend the first fifty-five minutes making sure he was answering the right question”