A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

Summary
  1. A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change
Key Takeaways
  1. Process: slowing down, stepping back, noticing what others miss, challenging assumptions (including your own), gaining a deeper understanding of the situation or problem at hand, question the questions you’re asking, taking ownership of a particular question and trying to shift perspective in order to see your own life – and the problems, opportunities and challenges worth tackling – more clearly
  2. “Why – What If – How” model for forming and tackling big, beautiful questions. It’s not a formula but more of a framework designed to help guide one through various stages of inquiry because ambitious, catalytic questioning tends to follow a logica progression, one that often starts with stepping back and seeing things differently and ends with taking action on a particular question
    1. Why – helps you question the status quo and see potential new possibilities; backwards steps
    2. What If – helps you see things other than they currently are; leaps of imagination
    3. How – helps you take your question and make it actionable; action, failure, iteration
      1. Must narrow down to most promising question at this point
      2. Fail fast, get feedback, improve, repeat – establish a minimum viable product
      3. Important to study failures but equally important to study and understand what went right. Am I failing differently each time?
  3. Great products, companies, innovations, industries stem from a single question
  4. Questions today are more important than answers but people are asking less and worse questions than ever before (much like “deep work”)
  5. Question everything! Fundamentals and own assumptions especially
  6. Questions often disrupt hierarchy which is why most companies don’t truly like it
  7. Best questioners refuse to accept current reality
  8. Tends to be inverse relationship between expertise and good questions. Most breakthrough innovations come from “outside the field”
    1. Important to stop “doing” and “knowing” in order to truly start asking
  9. Big step to go from questioning to determining to take action – must almost get to the point of desperation and realize that nobody else is going to do it if you don’t
  10. A good question is like a lever for effort and curiosity
  11. Must have an awareness of what we don’t know in order to ask great questions
  12. Questions open up, direct and focus thinking
  13. Open questions with the right tone is important to draw the most out of people
  14. Questions allow people to think and act in the face of adversity
  15. Innovative questioning – confronting, formulating and framing the initial question that articulates the challenge at hand and trying to get some understanding of the context
    1. Why does a present situation exist?
    2. Why does it present a problem or create a need or opportunity, and for whom?
    3. Why has no one addressed this need or solved this problem before?
    4. Why do you personally want to invest more thinking about, and formulating questions around this problem?
  16. 4 stage process of creativity
    1. Preparation
    2. Incubation
    3. Illumination
    4. Implementation
  17. Must be comfortable sitting with questions and unknowns for long periods of time
    1. New insights take time to percolate and form. Don’t rush this process!
  18. Combinatorial thinking / connective inquiry – thinking with both connections and questions in mind
  19. Neotemy – “beginner’s mind” allows you to see things without labels or assumptions. Detached from self, ego, patterns and allows for flexibility, creativity, no assumptions taken
    1. Must learn to withhold judgment while exploring new ideas and big questions
  20. Children are asking less questions due to too much structure at home and at school
  21. Today’s education system was designed during the Industrial Age in order to produce workers, not creative questioners who are self-learners and what the world needs today
  22. 5 learning skills or habits of mind
    1. Evidence – how do we know what’s true or false? What evidence counts?
    2. Viewpoint – how might this look if we stepped into other shoes, or looked at it from a different direction?
    3. Connection – is there a pattern? Have we ween something like this before?
    4. Conjecture – what if it were different?
    5. Relevance – why does this matter?
    6. Approach questions, situations, answers with skepticism and empathy
  23. Fear is the enemy of curiosity – importance of creating a calm, stable, reassuring environment at home and at work
  24. Ownership of a question is very important as it drives you to find the answer
  25. Helpful to be questioned because it forces you to simplify and synthesize your core ideas
  26. Question your own questions – often takes 5 consecutive “why’s?” To get to the core
  27. Narrow, broaden, reshape to yes/no questions are good techniques to help look at questions from different perspectives
  28. Context is important – get first hand experience to better understand what the true issues are
  29. You must quiet the logical mind sometimes to get to the core of issues and reach the true question which needs to be answered
  30. Multi-disciplinary learning with rests interspersed is very helpful. Must be able and willing to live with difficult questions for years and let it marinate in your subconscious
  31. Purposely trying to think “wrong”, what you want to avoid or not accomplish is often helpful
  32. Learn to rely on other’s expertise and know when to ask for help
  33. Real potential for breakthrough innovation tends to be at the low end of the market
  34. Strive for efficiency often reduces questions and big idea thinking – over celebration of simply getting things done
  35. Tend to do your best creative inquiry when you are relaxed, informal and not really trying
    1. Have informal brainstorms to generate questions over answers. “How might we?…”
  36. Critical for leaders to embrace ambiguity
  37. Mission question rather than a mission statement shows that the company is striving towards ambitious end and that it might never “get there” although it is their goal
  38. Nature abhors a vacuum and business hates ambiguity
  39. Great way to stimulate curiosity is by exposure to as many original ideas and unusual points of view as possible – outside teachers, brain questioning sessions…
  40. Must determine what people actually want and need rather than what you think they want and need
  41. Definite Chief Aim – mission statement, life goal, what you are all about, what makes you tick
  42. Make sure you’re climbing the right “mountain” by understanding the true why and that it’s aligned with your goals and values
    1. What is truly worth doing regardless of failure or success?
  43. There is no substitute for self-questioning
  44. A repeatable questioning and action process is key as you don’t just “find” answers to complex life problems. You work your way, gradually, toward figuring out those answers, relying on questions each step of the way
  45. Developing a family mission statement can be a good bonding exercise
  46. Questions can be propulsive, help generate momentum
  47. When you find your beautiful question, stick with it
  48. “Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of your brain come into play, that you arrive at an original idea.” – William Deresiewicz
  49. It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting
What I got out of it
  1. I love the “Why – What If – How?” framework, self-inquiry vital, 5 why’s, understand the why behind everything you do, figure out what you would do regardless of failure or success and go tackle it