It's difficult to imagine a time when answers were not readily available via a simple Google search. Google was born only 20 years ago, technically not even of age in the US to have an alcoholic beverage.

As knowledge and data become more and more accessible for public use, it's important to stay relevant. How do you stay relevant? You dig deep and ask the hard questions.

You ask the kind of questions that don't have a quick answer on Google. The kind that have you on a long-term quest for answers, what Warren Berger calls "a more beautiful question" in his book, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.

Berger discusses the tragedy of shaming children for asking questions and praising them for knowing answers. If you ever attended a traditional public school in the US, you know the surge of dopamine and praise that comes along with sticking your hand high in the air in hopes of being selected to speak out loud the proud, correct answer you were jumping out of your seat for. 

Yet another pattern to have to undo from childhood, it's now more important than ever to get engaged in asking the kinds of questions that challenge the existing reality. Berger says, "we do know that the ability to question, whether verbally or through other means, is one of the things that separates us from lower primates."

So, how do you stay on top of the evolution food chain? Step one: be aware of, accept and get comfortable with your own ignorance. In his book, Berger shares a quote from Stuart Firestein's book, Ignorance:

"One good question can rise to several layers of answers, can inspire decades-long searches for solutions, can generate whole new fields of inquiry, and can prompt changes in entrenched thinking. Answers, on the other hand, often end the process."

As knowledge starts to become a commodity, the second step to finding the question you should be asking is by caring about problems. Rather than complaining about problems, ignoring them, or considering yourself to be outside of a given problem, pay attention to the problems in your community.

Once you have a few questions, you can then begin to take action. Simply asking a question, can make you into a wonderful philosopher. If you want to produce change, Berger shares in his book,  you need to follow a basic formula: Q (questioning) + A (action) = I (innovation). A powerful question never sleeps, it gives way to continuous action by asking 'what if' and 'how' after you ask 'why'. You can simple re-frame any question to 'what if' to start coming up with action items that give way to possible innovation and change.

For example, "why does it have to cost so much?" to "what if this could be produced for less?" to "how can this be produced for less?" That's just a simple example.

Every human being has a burning question inside of them that can fuel a lifetime of action that creates beautiful change. You can find purpose when you engage with a question that's larger than yourself. Knowledge may have been power in 1982; today, questions are the new power.

Published on: Feb 1, 2018
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