Automatic thoughts AND questions percolate up from your unconscious mind throughout the day.  As soon as we can talk we are asking questions.  Questioning seems so instinctive that we don’t even need to think about it, right?  You might want to question that. 

Your questions reveal a lot about your approach to life.

In his book A More Beautiful Question Warren Berger shares a study that the average 4 year old British girl asks 390 questions a day, and unless she’s exceptional, this number is likely to decline for the rest of her life.  What causes this decline?  What do we miss when we stop asking questions?

Schools and jobs reward us for memorizing and reproducing information.

There are few rewards for staying in an inquiry – it slows things down.  Yet, it is often that final, sometimes irritating question that reveals an extraordinary idea; insight that changes the course of companies and lives.

For a short time I continued my corporate job while being certified as a coach.  During my certification I learned to use inquiry, questions beginning with WHAT, to bring new ideas and solutions into awareness.  Without this kind of inquiry there is a high potential to look to the past to solve problems, which gives you more of what you already have. 

During this time I also experienced first-hand the power and risk of asking questions.  Not accidentally, as I increased my use of inquiry at work, I also seemed to become a “difficult employee”.  It was painful for both parties.  Without a culture welcoming inquiry, even well-intentioned questions seem annoying, disrespectful and difficult.  Yep, in hindsight, my questioning resulted in all of these.  Not my finest moment but a great lesson in the power of questions and corporate culture.

My experience offers a clue why our little British girl stops asking question; it takes courage to keep asking and the rewards are few.  What is the cost to people and organizations when healthy questioning is stifled or forgotten?

“You can’t solve the problem with the same thinking that created it” ~ Albert Einstein

I believe that our questions reveal problem-solving characters; like personalities that show how we approach life’s challenges.  For corporations and individuals, the questions we use give us a sneak-preview of the success we are likely to experience.   If you’re going to stay on the inquisitive path, be sure you know what character you are.

WHY questions can be the character of the “Victim”.  There is little possibility of a satisfactory answer because WHY keeps you focused on the problem.

            Why did he/she/I do that?

            Why is this happening (to me)?

            Why can’t I ________________ (you fill in the blank)

HOW questions show the character of the “Recycler”.  The answer will provide a quick solution that is usually a “repackaged” version of something used before.  You risk stifling new perspectives and insights because you move immediately to strategy.

            How can I figure this out?

            How did we do this before?

            How can I get this done faster?

            How do we DO this?

"WHAT" questions awaken the character of the “Genius”.  They activate our innate problem solving intelligence.  There are usually multiple answers and the process is slower.  Creativity takes time – be patient.  “WHAT” questions catalyze game-changing answers.

            What are other options in this situation?

            What do I need to know to approach this differently?

            What does that look like?

            What has changed since the last time we talked?

            What other questions could I be asking?

            What is the opportunity here?

            What else, what else, what else?

What are your questions saying about you?  What would change if you spent more time in the inquiry?




J. Marceau Coaching