Why We Don't
Asking questions is easy; asking the right questions is hard. Peter Drucker once said that “the most common source of mistakes in management decisions is the emphasis on finding the right answer rather than the right question.”2 There is much to be said about how little time business executives put into considering questions to which they want answers. They skip over the most difficult part of inquiry, which is turning over in their mind what constitutes the big picture before identifying the critical insight they need. Asking any questions takes time, and articulating a positive question requires thought, two resources many managers have in short supply. There are other obstacles, some obvious and some subtle, to constructive queries. What follows are the most frequent hurdles to honest and open inquiry in the workplace and our personal lives. My definitions of these barriers come from firsthand observation and examination using questions such as:
If I only had the right question… . If I only had the right question… .
|▪ Who are you?|
|▪ What are your disappointments?|
|▪ How would you improve your question asking?|
When people talk about the trouble they are having getting something done at work, they sometimes describe the effort as jumping through hoops. Those hoops are often obstacles to asking questions and getting answers. If organizations hire employees for no purpose but to be productive, and if productivity is so closely linked to inquiry, why do so many managers seem to try to keep their people obediently unquestion-