A few weeks back, as I approached the end of 2013, I stated on my social media accounts that I wanted to become a more effective question asker in the coming year. I love posting these types of goals on social media because the community I'm connected with so often challenges and encourages me. This instance was no different. So I realized I needed to further define this goal of mine. What does it mean to ask better questions? Why is it important? How will I know I've been successful?
Questions - curiosity - is a mark of a great leader. In my experience the greatest leaders I've known or studied have been relentlessly curious. They don't take the first answer offered and they don't settle for face value. Great innovators and creatives are motivated to challenge, change, and check, the status quo. Asking great questions leads to great answers. It seems natural, in my observation of leaders, innovators, and creatives, to become a skilled question asker.
The challenge is what does it look like to be fiercely curious, and how might I measure my success in this endeavor? I don't believe there is any particular single set of questions, but I have found a helpful guide from Todd Henry. In his book, "Die Empty", Todd offers four areas of challenge to help us organize discovery: aspirations, attributes, affinities, and assumptions. Within these areas we can follow many specific inquiry paths. Within assumptions we might ask, "what are the limitations I am perceiving right now" or "what I am assuming to be true that is yet to be proven"?
So question asking is important and finding exactly what questions to ask seems to be more of an art than a science. This still doesn't solve my problem of measuring success. If great inquirers are more significantly artists than lab technicians, I've got a bit of a measurement challenge on my hands. How do we measure the success of any artist? It's a personal and subjective topic. Still, I feel the need to define some form of objective measurement opportunities. And so the best solution I can find is simply to track my work. Write down the questions I ask and the answers I find (or don't find). Track my progress to see if I can get better at asking the right questions earlier. Look to see if I can find patterns. Track my answers and my process. And, ultimately, track whether or not I'm solving problems or simply creating headaches.
What have you found to be the key to successful question asking? What are some of the questions you commonly ask during projects? How do you track success? I'd appreciate your feedback.