When asking questions is more important than the answers you might get

Asking a good question can lead you to great discoveries. If you could go fast enough to catch up with a light beam, what would you see? Albert Einstein asked this question as a teenager. The question led him to create his General Theory of Relativity.

Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine and self-described futurist, recently published a book called “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.”

One major inevitability he sees is artificial intelligence, which could affect or eliminate much of the work that humans do. But one area where we still need human brains and intelligence, and where AI is hard pressed to compete, is in asking good questions.

Viking Press

Kelly details what a good question entails:

“A good question is not concerned with a correct answer. 

A good question challenges existing answers.

A good question is one you badly want answered once you hear it, but had no inkling you cared before it was asked.

A good question creates new territory of thinking.

A good question reframes its own answers.

A good question is the seed of innovation in science, technology, art, politics, and business.

A good question is a probe, a what-if scenario.

A good question skirts on the edge of what is known and not known, neither silly nor obvious.

A good question cannot be predicted.

A good question will be the sign of an educated mind.

A good question is one that generates many other good questions.

A good question may be the last job a machine will learn to do.

A good question is what humans are for.”

— Kevin Kelly, “The Inevitable”

He goes on to say that “question makers” will generate new fields, industries, and possibilities.

The most gifted leaders I know, regardless of field, are great question makers. They challenge old ways of thinking and operating and push their organizations to levels no one thought possible.

The other great question makers, of course, are children. Kelly uses Albert Einstein as a great example.

When he was 16, Einstein discovered his first great thought experiment. He asked himself what he would see if he could travel so fast that he could catch up with a light beam. He thought that when he reached it, the beam would appear stationary, even though the equations at the time didn’t support that idea.

That question eventually lead him to develop his General Theory of Relativity.

What if we watched ourselves during the course of the day to see how many questions we asked? What if the question to statement ratio shifted so that we used questions, not just to gather information, but to see if there are different ways to solve problems. Maybe we would find problems we didn’t know we had?

Try it and see what you learn. I’d love to hear.

Read more here.