Genuine curiosity and an unwillingness to accept the status quo is a distinguishing characteristic of truly successful people. For them, information and simply knowing facts is not enough. They constantly ask questions to help them better understand the information they have and how they can act on it. They always want to know more—from their boss, from their spouse, from their teachers and they don’t stop learning when school ends.
Asking the right questions is a key strategy that enables people to keep an open mind and to enhance their lives in meaningful ways at work and at home. Most importantly, questions enable us see connections and explore possibilities that may not be obvious. All too often, people avoid asking questions because they fear the unknown, they don’t want to be seen as troublemakers or they are afraid of disrupting their routines.
Research shows the benefits of formulating the right questions:
When students know how to ask their own questions, they take greater ownership of their learning, deepen comprehension, and make new connections and discoveries on their own. However, this skill is rarely, if ever, deliberately taught to students from kindergarten through high school. Typically, questions are seen as the province of teachers, who spend years figuring out how to craft questions and fine-tune them to stimulate students’ curiosity or engage them more effectively. We have found that teaching students to ask their own questions can accomplish these same goals while teaching a critical lifelong skill.
Asking good questions is important in school and beyond. As Forbes contributor, Jason Selk writes, there are three questions CEOs should ask themselves every day:
1. What three things did I do well today?
2. What is my number one most needed improvement for tomorrow?
3. What is one thing I can do differently to help make the needed improvement?
The above questions apply to work, relationships, parenting, and beyond. Questions are a key component of self-evaluation and help keep a focus on the future—not on what has been or could have been.
As Jim Collins, author of the best seller Good to Great, described Peter Drucker (aka “the man who invented management”) as someone “who had a remarkable ability to not just to give the right answers but more important, to ask the right questions—questions that would shift our entire frame of reference.”
That’s what the best questions do. They make us re-think what we think we know.