The Power of the Question

Fostering an environment where questions are seen as a valuable tool can lead to a more robust exchange of information.

Asking a question is a simple act, but that simple act has the potential to unlock vast amounts of information and knowledge. In a professional setting, asking questions can lead to better project efficiency, the sharing of knowledge, increased engagement between employees and leadership, creative problem solving, and critical thinking.

A question is, by nature, a means to engagement. A question demands an answer. This question and answer duality is a tool that has driven the development of humankind scientifically, philosophically, and even physically. That kind of curiosity-driven engagement begets solutions, discoveries, innovations, and grand accidents. We learn to ask questions at a young age, but as we grow older, that instinct tends to wane. In the professional world, failing to embrace the power of the question can lead to stagnancy, poor decision making, and the killing of intellectual ambition.

Often times, we view the concept of sharing knowledge through a hierarchical framework: Someone who has more knowledge shares that knowledge with someone who has less. Knowledge shared between peers is just as valuable, and fostering an environment where questions are seen as a valuable tool, rather than something to avoid, can lead to a more robust exchange of information. Allowing employees to engage with each other through the natural flow of the “question and answer” format empowers them to seek creative solutions to problems.

Strong critical thinkers use questions as a means to kick-start the gathering of information. Critical thinking demands high levels of information and knowledge, and the most logical place to begin is by asking a question. Organizations that look for employees who think critically understand that these thinkers will pursue information via research, questioning, and analysis, and then apply that information to effective problem-solving.

At perhaps an even more basic level, questioning signifies thinking. When approaching nearly any kind of project or situation, having relevant questions designed to gather knowledge and information demonstrates an active mind and a proactive approach to gaining a better understanding of a scenario. There are very few organizations that want to employ people who have no desire to think for themselves, so ensuring that an environment where asking questions and seeking knowledgeable answers exists can lead to hiring—and retaining—higher caliber, more thoughtful employees.

Questions are really one of life’s greatest tools. We can think of them as keys designed to open increasingly complex locks. Some questions simply do not have concrete answers, but that can be viewed as an answer in and of itself. For organizations looking to facilitate a culture where knowledge sharing is a crucial part of employee engagement, providing healthy attitudes toward asking questions is a strong first step. The power of the question can be harnessed by anyone, at no cost, and with exponential returns.