Good Questions Can Drive Better Performance
Learn from children's curiosities
Excerpted from Chapter Two of “Leadership for Sustainability Powered by Questions” by Thomas Johansen, Thomas Specht and Henry Kleive – Part Two (Click HERE to read Part One “Sustainability – As Mindset and Ethical Claim”)
Socrates cultivated it more than 2000 years ago. Einstein used it to reach some of the greatest scientific achievements. Steve Jobs used it to develop new technological solutions in businesses that grew to become some of the world’s largest in record time. They all mastered the art of asking inquiring and challenging questions with the power to set things moving. In this book we call them powerful questions. Questions that curiously explore intentions, values, convictions, hopes, ambitions and possibilities. Questions that challenge our basic assumptions and create awareness of patterns and connections. Questions that give us new understandings of each other and the world around us and thereby expand our repertoire of possible action.
A British research study found that British children aged 4 on average asked 390 questions per day (Berger, 2014, p. 4). This tells us that for children, asking questions is almost as natural as breathing, and it is something the average child does instinctively every day. Before children reach school age, they will in this way have acquired half of all the knowledge they are going to have through their entire life – acquired in non-structured education environments, primarily as a result of a curious, inquiring approach to life, where questions are usually followed by more questions and yet more questions.
In most cases, this naturally wondering and inquiring approach comes to an abrupt end when children meet the formal education system, where children in most cultures are schooled in reproducing answers and acquired knowledge, while the natural inclination to ask questions is not similarly encouraged and rewarded. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting to know or and an answer to something, but the strong focus on getting an answer often gives us a tendency toward categorical self-assuredness. And this tendency is at risk of obstructing new perspectives, ideas and possibilities.
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