Have you ever noticed how many questions young children ask? Raising my own two children, I was amazed at their persistence in finding answers to their questions. ‘Why’ seemed to be the most popular question. Children ask questions to understand the world: its rules, its procedures, its functions, its quirks. Although parents, and teachers, can be exhausted by young little minds and their constant questions, questioning is the way we learn.
But have you also noticed that as children get older, questioning takes on a new meaning? Older children are thought of as pests when they ask a lot of questions. Often, adults shut them down and stop answering. And as we graduate into adulthood, many times questioning is viewed as disagreement, causing trouble, and challenging authority. We eventually learn to stop…stop questioning, stop wondering, stop learning.
The invention and popularity of the Internet has been a catalyst for humans to be able to question. If I want an answer to something, often Google can find it for me. Just today I wanted to find out how to get to someone’s house. Google showed me how long it would take, if there was any construction going on, multiple routes, and even what it looked like if I was standing in front of the house. We have more information at our fingertips than we ever have before, and Google doesn’t make me feel dumb for asking a question.
But even though Google can quench our thirst for knowledge and satiate our curiosity, what about those things that Google can’t answer? Humans are built for interaction and a search engine just won’t cut it. Technology definitely has it’s place in our lives, but most often, we see great strides in innovation, transformation, and change when we can interact with each other face to face.
That’s where we should take advantage of the power of questions. I always find it odd that there are people who view questions as a form of disrespect, an annoyance, or someone just being nosy. Maybe a question is interest. Maybe a question is to understand better. Maybe a question is a springboard. Maybe a question is a chance to learn.
But the funny thing about questions is that chance to learn isn’t one sided. You see, the questioner may be attempting to learn through the question, but we as the receiver have the chance to learn as well. We gain insight into someone else’s mind and thoughts. We gain a new perspective. That may spark something in us, change our minds, inspire new ideas, or even make us rethink everything.
Sometimes as leaders, we view questions as a threat. When we have made a decision, and sometimes spent a great deal of time thinking about all of our options, we don’t like someone coming in a questioning that decision. Honestly, it’s downright scary. I am lucky to work closely with two people who encourage just that. And even though it’s still really challenging, they have taught me to not be afraid, not to be self centered, not to be embarrassed, and most importantly, to trust.
If we can disconnect ourselves from the fear of questions, we will find what makes us great. The interaction we receive will be worth the risk. No amount of Googling will give us the power of the questions of the human beings around us. Learn from that power. Capitalize on it. For every great idea started with a small thought that was built on by many, asking questions all along the way.