Powerful Questions

The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” – Indira Gandhi

Asking Powerful Questions is one of the central concepts in Art Thinking Works.

Powerful Questions create impact, shift your perspective, and open new avenues of thinking, feeling and acting.

Powerful Questions open the door to dialog and discovery.

They invite creativity and breakthroughs. And enable us to move beyond our biases and connect with others.

Powerful questions take you to a different place, so you look at things in a new and fresh way. They can lead to completely different options for resolving issues.

And it doesn’t matter if it’s a problem that you need to solve, a challenge that you’re facing or an opportunity you’re looking forward to. Powerful Questions can generate creative insights, ignite change, and guide your actions.

Powerful Questions drive Innovation

Elon Musk has said he wants to ‘expand the scope and scale of consciousness, biological and digital and learn how to better ask three questions: ‘Why we’re here? How we got here? And ‘what the heck is going on?’

Albert Einstein’s relationship to questions is clear. He said, ‘if I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask … for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.’

And his theory of relativity began with this Powerful Question – ‘What if I rode a beam of light across the universe?’

Powerful Questions drive entrepreneurship

Daniel Ek of Spotify asked.

‘Why hasn’t anyone made a version of Napster that works for both consumers AND artists? And ‘What if we could build something that makes it feel like you had all the world’s music on your hard drive?’

Ev Williams of Twitter and Medium has said he is driven by this one question, ‘What’s preventing people from sharing thoughts online?’

Powerful Question Connect Us

We’ve all heard of closed-ended versus open-ended questions.

Closed-ended questions stop dialog dead. They are demanding. They are stifling. And don’t lead anywhere.

Sometimes they’re ‘yes or no’ questions. 

When we ask ‘yes or no’ questions we don’t give an opportunity for another person to engage in deliberate thinking or to share their experience. 

But the questions don’t have to be ‘yes or no’ to be closed. They can also be contextual.

Think about the standard question on a personal level  … “How are you doing?” 

We all know the answer, right? …  “Good.”

Conversation over.

Open-ended questions are powerful and create the opposite scenario. They invite and indicate to the person you are talking to that you want to know more real things about them.

Instead of asking ‘how are you doing?’ One of my favorite questions is, ‘what’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen or done this week? Or … what’s your internal weather like today?’

When I ask those questions, I get a completely different response.

The same is true for leadership … ‘Is this done?’ Could be replaced with ‘what’s the progress on…? Or … ‘how do we find a better solution to …?’ Or, ’if you had unlimited resources what would you do?’

Sara Blakely of SPANX asks her staff: ‘If no one showed you how to do your job, how would you do it?’

Open-ended questions help us explore ideas.

Open-ended questions are powerful and connect us through meaningful conversation. They’re packed with curiosity. The intention is to gain deeper insight about a problem, inquire more deeply about others, our own thoughts, and explore different points of view. 

What makes a question powerful?

Powerful questions: 

Generate curiosity. Activate the beginner’s mind. They start with a blank canvas.

Are thought-provoking.

Resonant – they stick with you. The kind of questions you keep coming back to. One of my personal Powerful Questions is how can I help others find their inner artist and grow their unique talents?

They create energy and forward movement. They are future focused. And move towards deeper understanding. JFK’s famous quote: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’

They’re meaningful.

They’re simple – often expressed in a clear and open way. 

Oprah Winfrey has said that one of the secrets to her success is that she asks herself: ‘What do I really want? And what is my spirit telling me is the best way to proceed?’

They’re Invitations – to new ideas, to other people, to perspectives.

Powerful Questions encourage open mindedness to gather relevant data, learn new information, refine our beliefs, and shift our approach to how we view ourselves, others and the world around us. 

Asking Powerful Questions is essential to Art Thinking.

And If you really want to make an impact, you could start by asking yourself … What Powerful Questions should I ask myself today?

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