“I know you won’t believe me, but the highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others.”
When someone asks me a question I typically respond with an immediate answer. There are many issues with this including:
- I may give the wrong answer.
- I am not helping the questioner learn how to solve problems; instead I am only enhancing their reliance on others.
- I am not growing as a leader whose job is to develop people.
Instead of answering the person I would be far better served by countering their question with a question of my own. Even a simple, “What do you think?” response could be an extremely powerful learning opportunity.
The Slave Boy
The great philosopher Socrates once used this questioning approach to help a young slave boy solve a complex geometry problem by asking a series of questions. Socrates offered no assistance aside from making the young boy think. The kicker was the boy had never studied geometry a day in his life prior to this.
While this “Socratic method” can at times frustrate those who simply want an answer, it is the only way to really help a person grow as a problem solver.
Finally, I think it is important we question ourselves. When we feel like we have come to a conclusion we should ask, “How can it be better?” or “What am I missing?”
If the true spirit of kaizen is to never stop improving I conclude we should never stop asking questions of ourselves and others.
So, if you don’t mind me asking, what do you think?
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