Asking questions is a simple yet formidable way to learn. The world’s best innovators and brightest thinkers know the power of asking the right questions. It is the best way to get the information we need to make informed decisions.
Try these powerful questions to help you with your skills of reasoning and inquiry:
Ask Open Questions
When setting out to apply critical thought to a problem or challenge, it’s important we can go beyond face value information or surface level conversations and dig deeper. This is why asking open questions is key. Open-ended questions require a lengthier response with more depth. They are helpful in finding out more about a person or a situation, as they require more than a yes or no answer.
Examples of open-ended questions are:
- Why do we think this happened?
- What are all the things that might have led to this situation?
- What other considerations should we take into account?
Questions for Clarity and Accuracy
If something’s unclear, we can’t know if it’s relevant or accurate. So, ask:
- Could you elaborate further on that point?
- How else could you express that point?
- What would be an example or illustration of that point?
- Is that really true? How could we check that?
For precision, we can ask questions that allow us to reach the necessary level of detail or identify the specifics. A statement can be clear and accurate, but not precise, as in “the weather is unseasonal.” Questions that focus on precision in thinking include:
- Could you give me more details?
- Could you provide me with more specific information?
- What specifically…? How specifically…?
- Could you explain your position fully?
Seeking out Depth, Breadth, Comparison and Categorisation
When we critically analyse ideas and actions, we need to look at the complexities and interrelationships at play (the depth) and the wide range of multiple viewpoints (the breadth). We can also compare and categorise the information to make sure we are viewing it from all possible angles.
- Is this a complex issue and, if so, what makes it complex?
- How am I dealing with the complexities?
- Do we have enough information?
- What points of view are relevant to this issue?
- Am I failing to consider this issue from an opposing perspective?
- Can we cluster the information in a different way to add insight?
- How are we taking into account this problem / challenge / issue?
- Is there another way to look at this issue?
Looking for Relevance
Consider how relevant the information is to the matter at hand. Questions that can help us to identify if something has relevance include:
- Could you show me how this is relevant to the problem we are addressing?
- Could you explain the connection between your statement and the issue?
- How does this fact bear upon the issue?
- How does this idea relate to the other issue we are looking at?
This is about making sure that the combination of information and thoughts make sense in a logical order, ensuring that there are no contradictions or conflicts. Questions that focus on logic include:
- Does this really make sense?
- Does this follow from the evidence?
- Is each step of the argument or line of reason meaningful and genuinely connected?
- Does the line of reasoning demonstrate the conclusion?
- Is the conclusion connected to the initial premise?
If you’d like to use the questions we’ve covered here as a prompt in your meetings or conversations, you will find them all in our Guide to Asking Powerful Questions which you can download here