For over 20 years, the picture on the right has hung on our refrigerator. Yes, we are those people whose refrigerator is actually a family history lesson! It has yellowed over the years; however, it brings a smile as I remember the overwhelming and often exasperating flow of questions from our toddlers. My wife and I could certainly relate to the woman in the picture! I am also thankful that my sons, an engineer and a videographer, are still asking questions to which I have no answer.
Businesses are rediscovering the value of curiosity and questions in resolving the rapidly changing workforce needs: For purpose – Start with Why by Simon Sinek, For problems solving – Toyota’s Five Whys, For innovation – Challenge the Process. These are a few of the books encouraging us to ask questions. Which leads Dr. Jana to ponder, “Why should we have to go to great lengths to train adults and high-level businesspeople, no less, to do something that anyone who has ever spent any time with a two- or three-year-old clearly knows occurs predictably, persistently, and naturally?”
The World as a Question Mark
I admit that I may be part of the problem since I likely responded to some of my children’s questions with some version of “because I said so.” Dr. Jana offers some approaches and activities to encourage curiosity that extend beyond parents to teachers and I believe extend to employers as well.
Ask Questions of Your Own
Model curiosity. By asking questions, we demonstrate to others that questions are acceptable. Our mobile device culture is again teaching us to ask questions to digital assistants. We say, “Hey, Siri” or “Alexa,” however, our curiosity must extend beyond a computer algorithm for answers. Practice asking questions that require more than one-word answers or that seek multiple options for solutions.
Praise Questions, Not Just Answers
Answers are everywhere in the Information Age. Twenty years ago, No one predicted that a new startup company would eventually add the verb, google, to our dictionary. Questions and curiosity help us sift through the avalanche of information with discernment, wisdom, and clarity. Do not be afraid to say, “That is a great question.”
Increase Your Q/A Ratio
Some may consider it rude to answer a question with a question, however, the Greek philosopher, Socrates would disagree. The Socratic Method involves an exchange of probing questions by both teacher and student to promote a deeper understanding of a topic. It also allows you to model the first two approaches listed above. “That is an intriguing question. Let me ask you a question, . . .”
A Word for Employers
In a world with productivity and customer demands and looming deadlines, it would be impossible to have an endless exchange of questions. Targeted, intentional application of the strategies can create a culture of curiosity and innovation that can increase productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. Such a culture prepares your business to continue to adapt to changes in your marketplace.
Jana, L. (2017). The toddler brain. Boston: Da Capo Press.
Other blogs in the Qi Skills series: Click on the link below.