Curiosity requires questions, but not all questions are curious

As you can read on basically every page on my web-site, I am a fan of (professional) curiosity, which basically means a fan of asking (inquisitive) questions. I recently caught myself being annoyed by someone’s questions. So, am I inconsistent (which would also be human) or is there another explanation?

Are all questions created equal?

In general, in my universe, questions are more interesting than answers. Spend more time on working your way towards a good question rather than coming up with the perfect answer. Put differently, the quality of the question positively influences the quality and relevance of the answer.

The reason why

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How to tell

So, if not all questions should be celebrated, how to distinguish the lazy from the explorative ones? As with so many things, in part this is subjective. However, a few traits of lazy questions do seem to be: 1. They encourage convergent answers, the answer is specific rather than open, 2. The person asking the question can discover that specific answer him/herself, without too much effort, 3. The relevance of the response is not high. In short, we are talking about just obtaining information, and asking someone else instead of exploring yourself is an easy way to get it. Explorative questions are almost the polar opposites: they open up our minds, they intentionally tap in a network that has added value and the response is only an invitation to ask more, deeper, richer questions, it’s not the end of the line

… and what to do?

Do I have a problem with lazy questions? Not necessarily. There is a time and place for everything. Like I say in creativity workshops: Depending on what information or insight you are after and the stage of the thought process you are in, questions that close your world (Who, When) can make sense as opposed to ones that throw the doors open (Why, what (unintended) effects might this idea have) or ones that dig a little deeper but are aimed at finding some direction (How, What, what should a next step be).

Chief Curiosity at The New ABC. Always Be Curious and forget “the box” altogether.

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