We live in a world of ever-increasing uncertainty. The Federal Reserve Banks Uncertainty Index goes up, up and up, and Google Books’ Ngram Viewer for the word “uncertainty” is solidly trending upward since 1940. It’s just everywhere. And as Warren Berger points out in his stellar book A More Beautiful Question, in a world of increasing uncertainty the value of a discreet answer diminishes, while the value of a good question increases.
Which brings us to a quote by Jonas Salk:
“What people think of as the moment of discover is really the discovery of the question.”
If questions hold the key to our future — why is it that we ask so few of them?
Asking questions is difficult. We have spent essentially all our careers doling out insights, opinions, and advice. We were at the ready when an answer was needed — and we got rewarded for it. The good grade in school and university, the promotion at work, all results of us having the correct answer, not asking more questions. When we deliver answers, we are “in control”. It feels good, as we are the expert. But when we ask questions we might feel much less certain about ourselves, our ability to deliver value, to control (and stay in control), to be taken serious, to be quick and decisive.
But yesterday’s answers don’t fit today’s problems anymore. What is needed is people who ask the appropriate questions, who can guide, navigate, dance in the moment, to facilitate the best ideas and solutions to come out and to the fore.
Next time someone asks you for an answer — maybe consider responding with a resounding: I don’t know. But I have a number of questions we might want to consider.