Those who are around children for any length of time have often grown weary of the question, “Why?”
For example, on taking a short trip to the bank with a five year old, the parent may say,
“Mommy needs to go to the bank.”
“Why?” asks the child.
“Because she needs money.”
“Because we want to buy things.”
“Well, because we need clothes and toys.”
The saga continues until the parent finally says, “ I suppose the social pressures of living in an upper-middle class neighborhood means we need to keep up with the appearances of having nice things for our family.” By the time you finish this long-drawn out response, the child has turned her attention back to the blocks in her lap.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “persistent questions and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisite for acquiring learning of any kind.” While this sounds wonderful in theory, in actuality, the parent is probably reeling with frustration or annoyance. The child, however, is learning about language, thinking, social mores, and life, in general. The “5 Whys” technique of problem solving was developed in the 1930s by Sakichi Toyoda. Because it is a simple way of getting to the bottom of a problem quickly, it is still being used by companies today. This question of “Why” can oftentimes lead us down a path of realization, inspiration, innovation, or sometimes, even more confusion.
According to Warren Berger in A More Beautiful Question, there is a 75% decline in questioning as children transition from elementary through middle school to high school. With this decrease in questioning comes the inability to ask the simple, naïve questions that are often needed to get to the heart of a problem or dilemma.
How do you come up with the best questions? One option is through Question-Storming. This is a process of brainstorming, but instead of solutions, you are coming up with questions. The goal is to generate as many possible questions as you can, in order to access the heart of the "problem" By asking questions, we develop a curious mindset. And with that curiosity comes greater insight and creativity. In her book Change Your Questions Change Your Life, Marilee Adams stresses the importance of asking difficult questions in order to lead to radical transformation.
Through asking the right questions, people can develop their true visions, morals, opinions, and innovations. The Right Question Institute uses a variety of techniques to get to this “right question.” They offer workshops, webinars, and services to help children and adults develop a questions mindset. In turn, democracy is served through a greater understanding of the true questions and issues at hand.
Euripides said “Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” So the question remains: “Is the question the answer?”
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger
Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and In Life by Hal Gregersen
Change Your Questions Change Your Life by Marilee Adams