Episode #294: Warren Berger – How To Ask More Beautiful Questions

Innovation expert and questionologist WARREN BERGER has studied hundreds of the world’s foremost innovators, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers to learn how they ask questions, generate original ideas, and solve problems. He is the author of eleven books, including THE BOOK OF BEAUTIFUL QUESTIONS: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead, the bestseller A MORE BEAUTIFUL QUESTION: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, and the internationally acclaimed GLIMMER, named one of Businessweek’s Best Innovation and Design Books of the Year. His writing appears regularly in Fast CompanyHarvard Business Review, and The New York Times.

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“The ability to ask great questions leads leaders through the innovation cycle.”

Show Notes:

  • Commonalities of sustaining excellence:
    • Intelligent… Smart
    • Hard-working
    • Ambitious
    • Humble — This is a really important quality.  No ego or arrogance.  They admit when they are wrong.  Willing to acknowledge when they’re wrong.  They are open to listening to others and their ideas.
    • Curiosity – They are not trapped by their own expertise.  They are open minded, curious, looking around.
    • Able to adapt
    • Communication skill — The willingness and ability to ask great questions
  • The genesis of becoming a questionoligist — Warrens calls himself a questionoligist.  The art and science of asking questions.
    • He originally was a journalist and developed a skill for asking questions doing that job.
    • “Questioning was a tool of the trade”
  • Warren was writing about design and the idea of questioning kept coming up with leaders in business.
    • “The ability to ask good questions would lead them thru the innovation cycle.”
  • The holy trinity of questioning:
    • Why?  Trying to understand
    • What if?  Ideation, brainstorming
    • How?  Get practical.  “How can we take the first step?”
  • Big open ended questions — They are the stems
    • Each one does something completely different
  • Questioning as a manager:
    • Find time to have the conversations and ask questions of your team members
    • Must be thoughtful and prepared
    • We’ve gotten out of the habit of being questioners, and now it’s always about doing.  “Slow down, ask questions.  Why are we pursuing this strategy? Understand why?”
  • Why do we stop questioning as we age?
    • External forces — peers may judge you.  It may reveal that you don’t know something you’re “supposed” to know.
    • “I think there are some people who’s curiosity is so strong that they don’t care if they get judged.”  Those seem to be the most successful ones long term
  • “The confidence to be humble.  Willing to admit you don’t have all the answers.”
    • “The leader doesn’t need to have all the answers.”
  • How do we foster a workplace of inquiry?
    • “Lead by example.  Foster a culture that you ask questions, and spread it.  Others will see what the leader is doing.”
  • We know questioning is the starting point of innovation, then why don’t businesses embrace it?
    • They think it’s inefficient
    • They are impatient
      • They play the short game (even though we all know the long game is the proper game to play… Always)
  • A great leader must look in new directions on a regular basis
    • Reinvent constantly — Must be questioning and curious at all times
  • Better questions to ask:
    • What are you excited about right now? — This helps understand what someone is pursuing, the mission they’re on.  They will open up if you excite them with a great question.
    • Don’t say, “how was your day?” — Instead ask, “what made you laugh today?”
  • Problem:  A lot of us shift into advice mode too quickly.  They don’t need your opinion, they need to figure it out for themselves.  Help them surface their own ideas.  Ask them questions.  “If you could try anything to solve this, what would you try?  And what else?  What else?”
    • A great therapist helps you solve your own problems by asking excellent questions
  • How to give yourself advice?
    • A great question for yourself is, “What if my best friend had this problem, what would I advise him or her to do?” — We are better at giving others advice than we are to follow our own.  Create that environment for yourself.
  • “How can I help you?” — It’s a good question… Or use, “How might I help you?”  However, it’s important to use this as a follow up question and not in a sleazy way at a networking event to someone who you barely know.
  • Another question: “What’s your biggest challenge?”
  • End of the podcast club: Tweet @RyanHawk12 and @GlimmerGuy with you #1 learning from this episode
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document

“The Holy Trinity of questions: Why? What If? How?”

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