The problem is, as we grow older, we ask fewer questions. Our natural inquisitiveness grows dull, like an overworked school pencil. Ken Coleman, talking about his book One Question, mentioned the fact that by the time a child reaches the 8th Grade, they are only asking an average of 3 questions a day. Compare this to the tens, if not hundreds, of questions a toddler asks every day, and you know something is going wrong in our development.
So let’s back up. Why as a kid did I so often ask questions about the sky? The answers might be helpful to you as a cutting edge leader:
- I didn’t know the answer. Ignorance is actually good. It’s only a problem if you remain ignorant. But ignorance should drive you in a quest for answers – a quest of discovery. And who knows how many new horizons will be breached on that journey? Marching into the unknown is what leaders do.
- I knew that I didn’t know the answer. This is the real clincher. How many of us think we know the answer to something, and so we don’t even ask the question? Don’t assume you know everything. Because you don’t. Embrace your ignorance, and then work towards removing it.
- (As a kid) I was humble. How that changed as I got older! But at least as a kid I was somewhat humble. Humility is the greatest virtue one can have, because it puts you in the seat of the learner. It positions you for increase. There’s a Scripture that says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I certainly want to have the God of the universe on my side, not working against me!
So what are the benefits of asking questions?
- It makes you think deeper and more thoroughly about the issue. Asking a million questions means you get to consider every side of the equation. Which means: fewer nasty surprises and greater preparedness. And if the problem is a relational one, it also means you have more understanding and compassion, because you’ve put yourself in a different set of shoes.
- You reach more creative solutions. Every answer should drive you to ask a different set of questions. Whose answers in turn throw up a different set of questions. And so on and so forth. By the end of the process, you will have forced yourself to think divergently about a number of different aspects of the problem, before converging on a solution, which should by nature then be innovative.
- You become transformed. Asking millions of questions changes you, because it forces you to wear different hats and consider different points of view. You grow in understanding and insight, and you become a bigger person.
To ask questions is to challenge the system and to challenge yourself. Which, if channeled correctly, means growth and positive change.
So never grow tired of that inner child inside you!
How has asking questions helped you in your own personal growth?