cultivating a questioning discipline

Most of my life I've annoyed people, starting with my mother and currently my wife, by asking too many questions. Constantly asking questions, trying to understand why, always being curious. My mother used to tell me to go outside after she couldn't take it any longer. My wife just looks at me. You know the look. The one that says, "leave me alone, pal."

Luckily I haven't let these experiences stop me from constantly asking questions. And in the work-world, I've found that asking questions is actually an underutilized approach to solving complex problems. Typically we just sit through a meeting and don't say peep, even though we have no idea what so-and-so meant or didn't understand why the boss dismissed our idea. That's no good.

Asking questions is a discipline that needs to be cultivated. We all need to get over our fear of looking stupid for asking questions. Just ask questions. It's actually much stupider (is that a word?) to not understand something, when a simple question could have helped us understand.

I also suggest keeping a journal of questions, stuff like:

  • Do we (consumers) make decisions based on rational or irrational factors?
  • What would make people actually watch this commercial?
  • How is technology changing the way we communicate?
  • Why do two negative numbers, when multiplied, equal a positive?
Stuff like that. Your list will hopefully be different, but it doesn't need to all be serious or about your job. It just needs to be about things for which you are interested.

This post is begging me to end with the obligatory Chinese Proverb, so here goes:
He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.

19 comments:

Ioana said...

Hi there ! My name is Ioana and all i wanted to say is that i really agree with you on this one.I mean all my life i've heard things like " all those questions won't bring you any good " or "curiosity killed the cat ".I say it didn't kill it, it make it smarter :)
I also think your words are valuable information for young or wannabe copywriters, like me.
So i guess, what i really want to say is thank you !

Anonymous said...

Asking a few smart questions can be a useful tool and make you a valuable member of the team. Asking too many questions just annoys those of us who don't have to have every little thing explained to us and makes you the asshole no one wants to work with.

You should learn the difference.

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