Questions are an important discovery tool. In our dynamic world, the ability to ask the right questions has become increasingly important. In this book, Warren Berger explains why it’s crucial to question all aspects of our work and personal lives, and how to use inquiry to uncover creative solutions and breakthroughs. This free version of A More Beautiful Question summary provides an overview of why questions are important, how can we systematically approach innovative questioning, and put inquiry to use.
Why Ask Questions?
The right questions, when combined with action, bring innovation. The book addresses “beautiful questions”, which are questions that are ambitious yet actionable. These catalyze change by helping us to see and think differently, and motivate action.
The Power of Questions
Our full 13-page summary elaborates more on (a) how our outcomes are affected by open vs closed questions, the tone of questioning etc., (b) why we stop asking questions as we grow older and enter the workforce, and (c) examples of how inquiry has been applied in education to facilitate learning.
Essentially, questions help us to frame our thoughts and contextualize the overwhelming amount of data available today, to bring about creativity, innovation and change. In education, inquiry-based schools (which focus more on questioning, understanding and application of knowledge, than tests) have delivered deeper learning and more inquisitive students. Many high-profile entrepreneurs—such as Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page—are all from inquiry-based Montessori schools.
3-Part Framework of Innovative Questioning
However, simply asking more questions isn’t enough; people must also know how to analyze their own questions and decide which ones to pursue in depth. This brings us to the 3-part process of inquiry–a simple structure that we can apply for innovation and change.
Problem-solving involves different phases. Each phase comes with unique challenges, and requires a different mentality and types of questions. By giving structure to our questions and problem-solving process, we can use the right tools and approach at each stage.
Someone comes across a less-than-ideal situation, and asks “Why” to understand the situation/problem;
ii. What If?
The questioner begins to imagine possible solutions or improvements, by asking “What If”; and
The person zooms in on one of the possibilities, and figures out “How” to make it a reality.
Our complete 13-page summary explains the components of this 3-part framework in more detail; we also look at some examples, including how this process led to the creation of the Flex-Foot line of prosthetic foot products that transformed how amputees move and live.
Putting Inquiry to Use
Most companies aren’t built for questioning. Senior management tend to see questions as a threat to their credibility, chain of command and accepted practices. People also feel they have no time to ask questions, and they may not even know what to ask.
Likewise, in our personal lives, most of us are too busy to really stop and ask why we’re doing what we’re doing. Berger suggests that we may even avoid the difficult questions as we silently fear the answers they’d bring.
Our complete version of A More Beautiful Question summary discusses some of these inquiry tools and applications in work and in life, including examples of good questions that you can use. For now, here’s a quick overview:
i. Questioning in Business & at the Workplace
To succeed, businesses must now ask more expansive questions involving why, what if, and how, rather than old/closed questions involving how many, how much or how fast. These include asking questions about purpose, using What if questions to unlock good ideas or manage constraints, using question-storming (instead of brainstorming) to define your focus, using mission questions (rather than mission statements) to guide your organization, and building a culture of inquiry.
ii. Questioning for Life
While it’s useful to get ideas from seminars, self-help books etc., nothing can replace taking time out for reflection and self-questioning. Live your questions by experimenting with them, ask the right questions to confront your fears, use questions to open up your/others’ minds, and take time to find your beautiful questions.
Getting the Most from A More Beautiful Question
Ready to learn how to how to use inquiry to uncover creative solutions and breakthroughs? For more details, examples and tips, you can check out our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, a 13-page text summary, and a 26-minute audio summary.
The book is organized into 5 parts. It includes over 40 segments, each structured around a question about education, innovation, problem-solving, or business, e.g. “Why do kids ask so many questions?” and “Why are you evading inquiry?”. It presents examples, background and perspectives to help us think about each question.
About the Author of A More Beautiful Question
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas is written by Warren Berger—an American journalist, blogger and author, who has written primarily on innovation, design, mass media, and popular culture. He worked as a newspaper journalist and a magazine editor before founding his own independent writing business in 1990. Berger graduated from Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
A More Beautiful Question Quotes
“In a time when so much of what we know is subject to revision or obsolescence, the comfortable expert must go back to being a restless learner.”
“We’re all hungry for better answers. But first, we need to learn how to ask the right questions.”
“The mind, if preoccupied with a problem or question long enough, will tend to come up with possibilities that might eventually lead to answers.”
“Asking Why can be the first step to bringing about change in almost any context.”
“With more distance, a bigger picture comes to view.”
“Experimentation can be thought of as, simply, the ways you act upon questions.”
“One of the hallmarks of innovative problem solvers is that they are willing to raise questions without having any idea of what the answer might be.”
“Being willing to question is one thing; questioning well and effectively is another.”
Start using questions to create new breakthroughs in your work and life!