There is one school of thought that says … Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to. I think this is stupid and it defeats the purpose and intent of a question.
Another school of thought is that there is no stupid question. I like this mode of thinking a lot more and I encourage you to follow this model too.
I would much rather have someone ask a question than make a guess about what was meant. Perhaps the instructions were vague or perhaps it’s a complex topic. Keeping in mind that everyone has different levels of understanding. If in doubt … Ask the Question.
Get Curious. Be Curious. Live Curious
Even NASA is getting in on this … I mean they even named the Mars Rover “Curiosity” — where NASA is looking to answer (and ask) a lot of questions. Most notably … Can Mars support life?
Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why. ~Bernard Baruch
Curiosity surrounds us. You don’t need to look far. I encourage people to Live Curiously. I’d much rather spend the day with someone who has intellectual curiosity than with someone that either “knows it all” or doesn’t care to know more.
Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. ~Voltaire
How I get the Questions Flowing
I speak to a lot of different groups of people. Usually about semi-technical topics. There is one simple thing I do every time I speak. I make an offer. An honest and forthright offer. My offer is this … If you have any questions PLEASE ASK!
I also add … This is YOUR SESSION and this is YOUR TIME. If something doesn’t make sense please ask me about it.
Finally, I also give myself (and the audience) an out by adding … I do want to answer all of your questions. However, I may defer some questions to the end and may take some offline. I do this to keep the conversation flowing and to insure we keep within the time limits. Not because I don’t want to answer their questions.
I have found that doing this allows both me and the audience the comfort that the session will not get sidetracked by one specific line of questioning. Which can sometimes spur more questions.
Be curious, for knowledge will not acquire you; you must acquire it. ~Suidie Back
Putting Questions into Action (Hint: Bring Candy)
I have a special tool to get people to ask questions. It’s my secret weapon. It’s Candy! I don’t say anything about it before the session starts, but when the first question comes in … I reward the person asking the question with candy. Almost everyone perks up when that first bit of candy goes flying across the room. Try it … you’ll see.
What Prevents Questions?
The thing that seems to prevent the most questions is that person asking (or thinking about asking) the question doesn’t want to seem stupid? (I’m not trying to use this term in a derogatory sense … rather in the sense that people are often reluctant to put themselves out there for a lot of reasons … the most common is that they’ll be somehow ridiculed.)
There are of lot of types of questions. Depending upon the topic at hand it’s easy to put one or more into play.
My recommendation … Use as many questions as you need.
Before Asking a Question … A Simple Request
Please think … Even a little .. Before asking a question. I don’t want to dissuade people from asking questions. All I suggest is … Think about for a moment. Frame it, focus it .. And let fly.
As I wrap up this post I encourage you to put yourself out there. Be Curious and Ask Questions.
I’ll end this with one question for you:
Are you Living Curiously?
Remember, if in doubt … ASK THE QUESTION!
Jeff is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.