Questions are not such a bad thing after all!


An urgent mail from the boss, a midnight call or a suspicious SMS and your heart is racing. The voice of reason is muted by panic and fear. Worse, the already agitated neurons in your brain begin hurling a string of ‘what if…’ questions that further adds to your worry.

In hindsight, if you were to face the same situation today that made you weak in the knees a while ago, would you react differently? Certainly! Experience has made you wiser. Introspection has made you view the situation more objectively. It has made you question yourself: “what was it that I did not see?” Interestingly, the same panic-stricken ‘you’ does not take long to arrive at your moment of enlightenment. You realize that choosing worry over alertness and presence of mind clouded your ability to assess and handle the situation with poise.

Clearly, it is a questioning mind that drives thinking. Thoughts erupt. Ideas germinate. Discussions occur. The ensuing debate, questioning, counter-questioning, analysis and thorough examination is the ‘hardening’ process. This is where all that is distilled to one impactful ‘Statement of Purpose’. This is not to say that as the ‘Statement of Purpose’ begins to mature and assumes the trappings of a ‘project’, success is guaranteed. It can take months, may be longer till it reaches fruition.

But the mind/s that conceived the idea never wavers and refuses to give up. It is because such minds never stop thinking; they are forever abuzz; in pursuit of transforming every challenge into an opportunity. This is precisely what Socrates, the famous Greek philosopher, meant when he said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”

The fact of the matter is that how effectively does an organization or a manager fuel and sustain that intrapreneurial spirit within the employees? Freebies can only do so much. Asking employees to dedicate an X number of hours a week to brainstorm and ideate may require a re-visit. Anything that is regulated dulls the brain into performing a repetitive task.

Known to be an educator par excellence, Socrates held that education should lead to awareness and knowledge. A man of great insight and wisdom, he believed that it is only by interlocking his method of teaching with asking questions that would stimulate the intellectual engines of his students. He used questions as tools to stir within his students a hunger to know, to explore, to question, to learn to recognize and harness their potential within. So‘…the overall purpose of Socratic questioning, is to challenge accuracy and completeness of thinking in a way that acts to move people towards their ultimate goal…’

Needless to say that all inventions, discoveries, and explorations, have their origins rooted in a problem, an issue that needs to be addressed for the larger good. It’s no different today; innovations are by-products of enquiring minds. It is their genius that is able to see ‘things to be’ far ahead than the rest. They question the status quo, confront challenges with grit, take failures as learnings and are not demotivated by negativity. No looking back; forward is the only direction they know.

In fact, when applied to day-to-day work, this ‘formula’ can up productivity and quality of work. If you are to make a presentation in a meeting, make sure you send the attendees the presentation a day or two prior to the meeting. This helps the attendees familiarize themselves with the subject, think through the content, make recommendations or seek clarifications. It brings forth different perspectives and will enrich your discussion.

As it turns out, questions are not such a bad thing after all!

Helen Thomas, a journalist who broke down barriers for women in journalism, was the first woman assigned by a news service to cover the White House. Having covered 11 US Presidents' administrations, Helen had been witness to the ups and downs of American history. So when President Obama began his first term as President, she shared five key lessons with him to learn from -- one of them being not to fear to ask “tough questions”. Now, this means business.

Come to think of it, it’s not a ‘hi-fi funda’ at all. Before investing in a phone, a car or for that matter booking a marriage hall, you ask your friends, compare prices, check after sales service, and verify the claims made online and so on. It’s because you want doubts to be put to rest and make an informed decision.

Simply put, asking questions helps define tasks, express problems and delineate issues.

Questions, anybody?

About the Author :

Amandeep Sandhu

Amandeep Sandhu, is an Internal Communications Specialists at NetApp India R&D.


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