Asking good questions is a sign of intelligence. A lot of times, we are so preoccupied with providing good answers that we fail to realise that a good answer to a bad question is still unproductive. The quality of the question determines the value of the answer. Claude Levi-Strauss says, “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions”. In fact, nothing creates more confusion for a student than a wrong question. According to Thomas Pynchon, “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers”. Some of the reasons you need to improve your questioning skills are that they:
- Force you to think: E.W. Kenyon said, “Make your brain work. It will sweat, but make it work. It will improve. It will develop until you become a wonder to those around you”. Asking good questions is one of the best ways to put the brain to work. What exercise is to the body is what a good question is to the mind.
- They push your boundaries: research has shown that two of the most important questions one can ask are “why” and “what if”. Questioning some activities you engage in and some habits you have may help you realise their benefits or harm. The “why” question also helps to discover the reason behind certain traditions. Some organisations have outgrown some of their procedures but they don’t see the need to change. If you rediscover why those processes were established ab initio, you will assess their current usefulness. The “what if” question helps us to explore alternatives. Innovators and creative thinkers use this. “What if we do things differently?” A statement credited to Albert Einstein says, “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science”.
- They reveal ignorance: There are several things were assume we know but we only realise our ignorance when we are asked questions. They also help to bring the subconscious to consciousness.
They separate original from the counterfeit: part of the security check of any system is to ask a series of questions from an individual. For instance, in online banking, you are asked a few security questions and codes that are unique to you. A mistake on your part makes the security system assume you are an impostor and your further access is denied. Imagine if questions are never asked?