I have been spending some time on LinkedIn Answers. They can be both amusing and insightful. Much more useful than the Facebook “list of 25 things” that is a bit too narcissistic for my tastes. One question that I recently felt compelled to engage in is “What is the power of questioning?” Below is my answer which may be of interest to others:
The Power of Questioning
Questioning is valuable, but not at all times. One quote illustrates how questions are more important than answers:
“Computers are useless. They can only give answers.” -Pablo Picasso
The questioning of children when they learn the word “Why?” can be annoying as much as it is helpful to their learning. Questions can do more than just ask for an answer, they can be used in performative ways to delay, to hold power over others, to indicate status (especially in some cultures, only the big boss gets to ask questions of the workers, and workers and students would never ask questions of the boss or the teacher).
A Process for Questioning
The best approach to questioning, especially group discussions, is to have a process. I highly recommend The Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono. His process breaks apart different kinds of questions (and their different goals) into a serial process. The operating metaphor is that people are trying to describe a house, standing around different sides of the house, they will argue with each other even though all of them have a legitimate view of the house. The Six Thinking Hats approach has people taking one perspective at a time and discussing that perspective, then moving to the next perspective. I have used this process in organizational as well as academic settings. It works very well.