The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge. Thomas Berger
To grow in life and in career, we need to keep learning new things and how we can learn new things is by knowing what we don’t know. The answer of what we don’t will come from asking good questions. And once we start asking questions, our ignorance will be gone and our knowledge will increase.
Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, to follow out logical implications of thought, or to control the discussion. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, and deep, and usually focuses on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues, or problems. (Source: Wikipedia)
Charlie Munger started using these Socratic devices in a variation he called Socratic Solitaire, because, instead of a dialogue with someone else, his method involves solitary play. Munger used to display Socratic Solitaire at shareholder meetings of Wesco Corporation. He would start by asking a series of questions. Then he would answer them himself. Back and forth. Question and Answer. He would do this for a while. And he would enthrall the audience by displaying the breadth and the depth of his multidisciplinary mind.
What warren buffet wrote on asking good questions in 2017 Birkshire hathaway annual letter:
our hope is that the analysts and journalists will ask questions that add to our owners’ understanding and knowledge of their investment. Neither Charlie nor I will get so much as a clue about the questions headed our way. Some will be tough, for sure, and that’s the way we like it.
The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. -Socrates
An average four-year-old kid in Britain asks around 400 questions a day. But as we grow in age, we stop asking questions. Our reading and writing skills went up but our questioning skills went down a lot. In the book A More Beautiful Question – Warren Berger explains why questions are more important than answers and how to improve our questioning skills.
Let’s figure out why as we grow, we stop asking questions?
To ask a right question, we need to put pressure on our mind and we need to think and articulate a right question, so that we don’t look like a fool to others.
We are made in such a way that we try to avoid this mental pressure, so most of the time we avoid asking questions and accept whatever comes to our way or whatever presented to us.
To question, we need to first understand our ignorance that we know nothing. We need to be curious to ask questions, we should be having the fire within yourself to know the things out there.
To get the wisdom, we need to remove the garbage from out mind and fill it with right questions and wisdom. We can get the wisdom from books, great leaders, teachers, good blogs, good friends and by our own experience.
We must understand that the questions are more valuable than the answers.
Someone asked Albert Einstein for his phone number. Einstein looked up for his own number in the phone book. When asked why a genius like him cannot remember his own number, he replied – there’s no reason to fill his mind with information that can easily be looked up. This is very true In the current era of internet.
If I want to know something or about someone, why to remember, if I can get that from the internet easily.
Albert Einstein once said –
If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.
The same is said by Abraham Lincoln as well-
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
He(Albert Einstein) spends a lot of time to come up with the right question to ask. Finding out the right question to ask is very difficult. It is a skill one must develop by practicing. Warren Berger calls this right question as a most beautiful question.
To ask good questions that produces change he(Warren Berger) proposes a framework called as Why-What If-How:
Why – Person encounters a situation that is less than ideal and asks why.
What If – Person begins to come up with ideas for possible improvements and solutions – with such ideas usually surfacing in the form of what If possibilities.
How – Person takes one of those possibilities and tries to implement it or make it real; this mostly involves figuring out how.