Don’t Obsess Over The Answer. Obsess Over The Question.

There are plenty of big questions out there in the universe

We want results. And we want them yesterday!

Give me answers.

I want solutions. Not problems.

It’s often the case that we obsess over the answer, the final outcome, the end result. But if we neglect the question, the answer can be rendered irrelevant. And the process of arriving at the solution becomes inefficient and wasteful.

As mentioned in a previous post (Slow Down! Why busy people need to stop and disconnect) the first step is to gain some perspective and objectivity.

Breathe deeply and slow things down. We are all very busy and this can affect our ability to distinguish the wood from the trees.

With this done, it’s time to change the obsession.

The Answer Is In The Question

Knowing how to phrase a question correctly is key to gaining a meaningful solution to the problem.

This is what Adam Morgan and Mark Barden call “A Propelling Question” in their book A Beautiful Constraint.

“A propelling question is one that has both a bold ambition and a significant constraint linked together”

It forces you to think and behave in a different way.

The Audi R10 TDI was the answer to a propelling question

(Image courtesy of http://www.evo.co.uk/audi/7921/audi-diesel-for-le-mans)

Morgan and Barden offer several examples of propelling questions that harness the constraint to the ambition, ensuring the constraint drives the solution:

  • How do we win the race with a car that is no faster than anyone else’s? (Audi, Le Mans 2006)
  • How do we build a well-designed, durable table for five euros? (IKEA)

In this way, questions that exhibit a bold ambition linked to a limiting factor, or constraint, will yield better answers.

The Power Of Why

My two-year old son understands the Power Of Why all too well.

He is a master.

There isn’t a statement or utterance that isn’t met with an instant “why?” in our house.

This will inevitably lead to an explanation. Followed by another “why?” And some further explanation. Then yet another “why?” In a seemingly endless sequence in search of the truth (usually ending in exasperation or throwing the question back at him: “why do you think?” – that’s CIA-level parenting for you).

But there’s a wisdom in this transaction.

As annoying as it can be, it is his way of trying to understand things better. He’s not satisfied with the quick, generic response to his question. He wants to know the detail.

“Why” is the way to a clearer answer.

Especially once you’ve found an initial solution.

Ask yourself, why you should accept it? Or, why it worked? Even, why you arrived at that answer and not a different one?

Do this and your results will improve.

Stretch And Challenge

The grid below is used widely in education.

The language you use in your questions is critical

It teaches the vocabulary of inquiry and how to ask good questions (for both teachers and students).

As you can see, “Why” questions (along with “How”) feature in the higher order Analytical and Application Synthesis sections of the grid.

When coupled together with the verbs across the top of the grid, these form powerful questions that really stretch and challenge your thinking. Inevitably leading you to a better answer.

It’s Ok Not To Have All The Answers

So long as you’re asking the right questions.

Get the question right, and you open the door to an intricate thought process.

You will arrive at the solution. There will be a final outcome. And you will gain results.

But the journey, the twists and turns, the developing sequence of questions that you use to arrive at the answer, may end up being more beneficial and enlightening.

Why?

How?

Over to you.

 

Gareth

 

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