“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”
–Thomas Berger, American novelist
We are all guilty of being poor listeners from time to time. Take it from Joseph Bradley himself, author of the book, Questioneering.
In Episode 3 of Think Deeply, Speak Simply—The Power of Asking Questions—Joseph notes, “As business leaders, parents, coaches, [and] individuals, all too often we are so built on this momentum of finding the right answer... we forget to simply pause and ensure that you are asking the right question.”
Joseph isn’t wrong. Instead of being more active listeners, we’re more concerned with deciphering whether the other person is right or wrong. We’re constantly waiting for our chance to speak rather than understanding other viewpoints.
Here are three techniques Joseph recommends to enhance the power of your questions.
Use the ASK acronym
Being aware of your blind spots is critical for clear communication. For business consulting presentations, Joseph reveals his go-to acronym—ASK:
Broad questions get broad answers. That’s why you should aim to get as specific about your question as possible. Discuss it and evolve this question over time.
Ask yourself surprising questions that challenge your core beliefs. What happens if you’re wrong? What would have to be true to invalidate your belief? These challenges and doubts offer new perspectives, margins of error, and clarity, resulting in stronger questions and answers.
Once you’ve challenged your belief system, take it a step further by asking yourself a series of why questions. This stretches your fundamental question from one end of the spectrum to the other, leading to a special “AHA!” moment. It is only then that the richness of the answer can come to you.
Ask questions from start to finish
What good does it do to exclusively ask questions during a post-mortem meeting? Instead, focus on asking questions in the beginning and throughout the entire process. Challenge everything you’ve been told and listen to perspectives unlike your own. Asking questions to a diverse and inclusive audience is the key to unlocking new insights you might have otherwise missed. Diversity is the potential to create value. Inclusion is the realization of value through full participation.
Accept there's no single right or wrong answer
We’ve been trained since our education days that there is only one answer; if you stare at a problem long enough, you will discover the answer.
In the real world, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Joseph advises challenging conventional thinking at every turn. Be bold and curious in your explorations, and focus on improving your rate of learning. Do not allow analysis paralysis to defeat you. The status quo is a danger zone for out-of-the-box-thinkers and the world needs more innovative leaders with questions as their superpower.