The importance of the beautiful question

“Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question”
e.e Cummings

asking the right question...

August is often an opportunity for me to catch up with reading recommended by clients and colleagues. On a recent visit to Vermont, USA, a colleague recommended I should read A More Beautiful Question – the Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger. The book made the journey much more interesting. Not only an accessible book, but a thought provoking one; encouraging us to be more curious, more entrepreneurial, and to encourage creativity throughout the workforce.

Berger talks of education, and the importance of fostering curiosity. It’s something all children do from early on and is encouraged at primary school. However, at secondary school and afterwards, curiosity is challenged, not encouraged. But, for entrepreneurial success and effective organisations – a curious attitude is an essential requirement.

Throughout the book, there are stories on how thinking about and asking quality questions led to successful innovations. When taking photographs with a traditional camera, serial inventor, Edwin Land, was asked by his young daughter why she couldn’t see the picture he had just taken. This prompted him to ask the internal question: Why not? Why not design a picture that can be developed right away? These questions led to more: What if we could somehow have a dark room in the camera? How would one print a positive? How would you configure both negative film and positive paper in the back of the camera? His questions led him to invent the polaroid camera.

Often, at the heart of all innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship are the questions: ‘why?’, ‘what if?’ and ‘how?’.

In a team environment, the person asking the ‘why?’ ‘what if?’ and ‘how?’ questions can be ignored or isolated. Sometimes, answering the questions diverts from the pressures of finding solutions. On many occasions this person will be asking the most important question, insists Berger. The question that should not be ignored.

So, how has this book changed how I work? Firstly, I’m trying to give more time to thinking about the right questions to ask. Secondly, in my personal and professional life I’m asking more questions; and, thirdly it has fostered curiosity in all my relationships. Something worth considering?

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash