February 24, 2018

What really is the question?

Man thinkingMost of the time we focus on answering the question—or trying to.

But is it the right question?

Are we investing our energies in solving the right problem?

In my own (sometimes painful) experience…

We’re inclined to spend rather too much time trying to answer a question and not enough time making sure it’s the right question in the first place. We’re comfortable, in a sense, with the question as stated.

For example…

I once spent some considerable time trying to think of a way to repair a damaged piece of manufactured pipework in a remote location, with only limited resources. Only when someone asked “What does that pipe do anyway?” and I answered that it conveyed water from there to there, did I realise that implementing an alternative way of piping the water was much easier that repairing the damaged part. A piece of tubing and two jubilee clips would do fine and all were available.

To this day, I am in awe of the human propensity to fixate on answering the wrong—or at least not most helpful—question.

When actually…

As Einstein said, “The questions are more important than the answers.”

To avoid the trap, we need to be prepared to go in the direction of knowing less rather than knowing more, at first—to not only not know the answer, but to choose not to know the question either. We need to accept—even welcome—the discomfort that entails.

Where could you do with reconsidering the question?