As an insurance adjuster, I ask questions for a living. There’s some irony in that if you know that I also bypassed a career in journalism in part because the George Costanza model of newswriting—in which I wrote solid stories based on interviews I didn’t actually conduct because I didn’t like asking questions—wasn’t going to work beyond the university classroom.
There might also be a tiny bit of irony in the fact that though I am a professional question-asker, I also believe there is such a thing as a dumb question, though perhaps dumb question is the wrong thing to say when what I mean is bad question. That’s the sort of question that isn’t really a question but is more of a statement, or a directive, or sometimes even an accusation that attempts to masquerade as a question by holding up a curly piece of punctuation around its eyes.
Questions and I have long since forged a level of peace, and sometimes I’m even good at them, even if I don’t prefer the kind that have me inquiring of a 12-year-old why he might have taken a baseball bat to a neighbor’s windshield or just how many hours before driving since a guy had last puffed. The best kind of questions to me, now, are those that create openings rather than close off people and possibilities, and the kind that explore alternatives instead of prove cases.
These are closer to what Warren Berger would call beautiful questions: “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 invite you to join us for our next book club discussion where we’ll be exploring Berger’s book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, considering how asking beautiful questions like Why, What If, and How can help us move forward in our businesses and personal lives, our writing, and our creative endeavors.
To join with us, pick up the book at your favorite bookseller or your library. I’ll have a post each Wednesday for four weeks to get the conversation started and invite you to meet us in the comment box beginning Wednesday, March 11.
Planned reading schedule for A More Beautiful Question:
March 11: Chapter 1 • The Power of Inquiry and Chapter 2 • Why We Stop Questioning
March 18: Chapter 3 • The Why, What If, and How of Innovative Questioning
March 25: Chapter 4 • Questioning in Business
April 1: Chapter 5 • Questioning for Life
To get the questions started, try this “inquiry quotient” quiz or watch the book trailer:
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Photo by Horia Varlan, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by LW Lindquist.