Asking a Beautiful Question

Asking questions is what differentiates humans from primates. Even before childen start speaking, they start asking questions. The type of questions changes with the age. Initially, the questions are in the form of “What is that?’, switching to “Why is this man doing this?” to “How does this work?” and “Why is the sky blue?, until we come to the imaginative questions of “What if…?” In fact, children ask 40,000 questions between the age of two and four.

But not all questions are good questions. “Why haven’t we done that?”, “Who’s responsible for that?”, “When can we expect this?”, “Am I the only one who is worried about that?” are questions that are searching for somebody to blame. They are interogative like in a cross examination. One of the most stupid questions is the kind of “What’s our version of the iPad?”

Albert Einstein asked himself a questions that started an entire scientific discipline. “How would the world look like if I were riding on a light beam?” The result was the relativity theory with the now famous formula E=mc2.

This question is also a great example what characteristics make a great question:

  • It’s not primarily about the answer.
  • It cannot be answered right away.
  • It questions existing answers.
  • You want to hear the answer, as soon as the question was posed, without having been aware of the question beforehand.
  • It creates a new thinking space.
  • It structures its own answers.
  • It is the crystallization point for innovation in science, technology, art, politics, and economy.
  • It probes what-if-scenarios.
  • It moves at the edges of known and unknown, neither the foolish nor the apparent.
  • It cannot be predicted.
  • It is the sign of an educated mind.
  • Many new questions are resulting from it.
  • It is probably the last task a machine will be able to learn.
  • It is something that humans were created for.

What questions do I ask myself? More about that in the following video:

This article was also published in German.

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