Ask Great Questions, Get Great Answers

I recently read The One Thing and really enjoyed it. The One Thing explores the power of identifying and focusing on the one big thing in your life and how the adjusted focus will help you achieve your goals. One of my favorite chapters discussed the process of asking great questions.

There are four types of questions:

  1. Small & Specific
  2. Small & Broad
  3. Big & Broad
  4. Big & Specific

Great questions are those that are big and specific. Great questions lead to great answers, which is really what everyone is looking for.

So what is a great answer? Gary Keller and Jay Papasan split it into three categories: doable, stretch, and possibility.

Doable answers are answers you can come up with from your current expertise.

Stretch answers require some research, but are still within your current abilities. They might require some stretching, though.

Possibility answers are only found by looking for the best answer. To get to these answers you must crave this result and be willing to be uncomfortable. These answers are things that haven’t been suggested before and could be game changers.

This got me thinking… how can we quickly get to the possibility answers?

Seek out the help of others

This seems obvious, but I think we are often scared to ask for help. The reality is, the best leaders are the leaders who are willing to admit someone else knows more. If you’re willing to seek the help of others, you’ll come up with better questions, thus better answers. You cannot be an expert at everything. It’s just life. I heard someone say “so and so has the burden of being the expert.” It is a burden. It is exhausting.

Don’t think of asking for help as a weakness, but think of asking for help as a way to learn more. We never want to stop learning, and the people around you can sometimes be great teachers.

Get some time alone

In today’s busy world, it can be hard to have uninterrupted time. That’s why you have to plan it! I’ve started planning uninterrupted time into my work day, and it has made a world of difference. Too often we always seek to be around others. Especially the younger generation, it’s all about entertainment. But without some deep thinking time, it’s impossible to come up with deep or possibility answers.

Everyone thinks they can multitask, but the reality is we can’t. Quit telling yourself you’re a good multitasker and admit your work quality is affected. Then decide how you’re going to change.

Be willing to sound stupid

If you’re considered an expert in something, you don’t want to ask the tough questions. In the book “A More Beautiful Question” by Warren Berger, it is typically the outsider who can ask the good questions. Sometimes, you need to make yourself the outsider. Be willing to sound stupid, and be willing to take criticism. In today’s business world, it can be easy to get stuck in the “always have to be right” mindset. Reality is, no one is always right. We’ve put horrible pressure on ourselves and others with how quickly we’re willing to shoot down ideas.

We need to take the “bad ideas” and find the good in them. Many bad ideas are born out of real concerns. And if someone asks a “stupid” question, take it a step further and ask what you can get out of it. Sometimes the answer can be surprising.

So, lets ask better questions, because we all want better answers!