"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Are you currently getting the right answers to the wrong questions or the wrong answers to the right questions?

What is at stake when we ask the wrong questions and come up with the right answers?

Everything, that is, everything that includes the interactions between people, organisations, and technologies.

These are the ingredients of systems within ecosystems.

It is far better to ask the right questions and get a stack of wrong answers, for they are markers that lead the way to solutions.

We learn far more when things go wrong than when they go right. We must welcome wrong answers so that we can understand them, relate them to past experience, and infuse them into the wisdom of an organisation.

When we refuse to recognise and acknowledge the importance of errors, we commit the most damaging error possible.

The right questions can lead initially to chaos. This is healthy. Our wrong answers churn away within us, much like a carburetor preparing a mixture for combustion . . . except that this is creative combustion, often leading to breakthrough innovations.

Psychologists point out that most of us have mind sets. That is, we tend to fall into ruts that limit our thinking. Turning the problem upside down may provide a novel solution. It is said that Ford’s invention of the assembly line was achieved by this type of inverted thinking.

Instead of the usual ”How can we get people to the material to work on it?” Ford asked, “How can we get the work to the people?”

With this fresh approach the assembly line idea emerged.

~ Auren Uris & Jane Bensahel, “On the Job: Quick Solutions to Job Problems,” Los Angeles Times, 1981.

Ideas are meant to be alive, dynamic, oxygenated through participation, experimentation,and cross-fertilisation. They are worthless unless they can be put to use, and continually grown, improved, destroyed, and reincarnated afresh. Their core remains the same, but their scope enlarges with successful use.

The inherent, dynamic nature of ideas inspires unexpected, often serendipitous, results. As long as we have a creative brain, we can never run out of ideas!

[Excerpted from the 'Ideas on Ideas' edition of The Braindancer Series of bookazines by Dilip Mukerjea. All the images in this post are the intellectual property of Dilip Mukerjea.]

Say Keng's expert comments:

I fully concur with Dilip Mukerjea.

One of the easiest ways to start questioning & to get it rolling is to apply the traditional Journalist's Questions:

- What?

- Who?

- Where?

- When?

- Why?

- How?

For example, say within the context of evaluating a problem situation - you can ask:

- "what has happened?";

- "who was involved?";

- "where did it happened?";

- "when did it happened?";

Next, you can in fact bring your line of questioning to the next level by asking:

- "what has not happened yet?";

- "who is not involved yet?" or "who is the perpetuator here?" or "who will benefit most from here?";

- "where did it not happened yet?";

With such exploratory questions, you definitely open up a lot of perspectives, giving you the opportunity to uncover "hidden truths", so to speak!

In fact, I am inclined to throw in a 'Which? into the questioning process, although I believe Dilip has some reservations:

- Which part of the problem is most critical or which part gives the most trouble?

- Which part of it is more trivial or inconsequential?

By posing questions from this perspective, one can probably can get down to the jugular of the problem more quickly.

You can also expand the line of questioning by making your questions more open-ended, like what Henry Ford had done? In that way, possibilities naturally popped up for him.

For example, you can rephrase many of your questions in this manner:

- "In how many ways can I . . .?";

- "To what extent can I . . .?"

Other expansion possibilities include:

- "what if . . .?";

- "why not . . .?";

- "how come . . . ?";

- "so what? . . . what's next?"

To me, the ultimate purpose of asking questions is finding where it leads you to.

Interestingly, the graphic symbol for a question is "?" & if you invert it, it looks exactly like a "fishing hook".

Questioning is fishing in the ocean. Fishing for abundant answers.

As a matter of fact, to drive home Dilip Mukerjea's principal argument:

Questions, especially the open-ended ones, can gradually move your thinking from a 'fixed mindset' into a 'growth mindset'!

From my personal as well as professional experience, I believe that a deliberate practice in asking many varied questions, as I have illustrated in the foregoing, will eventually lead you to asking the right questions!

Last, to concur with Dilip Mukerjea once again, especially his last point, we must always put our ideas to work.

Remember, Actions have Consequences! & Consequences create Change, to paraphrase my good friend.

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