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Principles of creativity > Questioning

Learning not to question | Questioning causes thinking | Good question! | See also


Learning not to question

We are brought up to accept many of the things around us that we questioned as children. We also learned as children that challenging parents and other adults was not a very good thing to do. Our teachers taught us that asking stupid questions was the act of a stupid person. And so we learned not to ask questions.

Even our friends taught us that that challenging them was not always the right thing to do as we learned not to embarrass others in return for them being kinder to us.

We are surrounded with assumptions about the world, how it works, and so on, yet we either fear to question things or we forget even that questions exist.

Questioning causes thinking

When you ask questions, you force other people to think. You also force yourself to think. The mind does not like something which is incomplete, and as a result will try to answer questions, even difficult ones, in order to achieve cognitive closure. Questioning thus nudges the mind into action, forcing it to think again (or even for the first time) about things it had ignored or assumed could not be challenged.

Good question!

Although any question is probably better than no questions, asking good questions is important. The question you ask will have a significant effect on the answer you receive. Asking 'How can I scale this fence?' is different to 'How can I get into that garden?' Methods that ask deliberate questions do so from a perspective of finding the right things to ask to get the right answers.

Zen masters know the value of good questions in moving people. Classic questions ask such as 'What is the sound of one hand clapping?' or 'What is the sound of a tree falling in the forest when nobody is there?' There is no right answer, of course, because the real objective is to stimulate thought. Good creative questions also are like this: they stimulate thinking and have no immediately obvious answers.

See also

Assumption Busting, Challenge, Provocation, SCAMPER, Why not?, The Kipling method (5W1H)


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