Bigger questions are those thought-provoking questions that challenge our way of seeing the world. Such questions don’t even need to be expressed in words – we are continually faced with situations and experiences that are in themselves questions. Many of these questions don’t have ready answers and certainly don’t have one right answer. Rather than focus on seeking immediate answers, the invitation is to appreciate the process of questioning, exploration and discovery. It is, in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, about living into those questions:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. – Rainer Maria Rilke
Rilke suggests that we should be patient and open to living with unanswered questions, allowing life experiences and time to eventually guide us to answers. Simply by questioning and expanding our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, fresh horizons and possibility open up. Rather than directly seeking answers, the invitation is instead to create environments, mindsets, processes and habits that allow us to continually ask bigger questions and trust that those questions will ultimately lead to interesting answers.
Throughout history, it has been by asking profound questions, challenging widely held beliefs and living into such questions that humanity has achieved transformative change in various fields, from science and politics to social justice and human rights. Visionaries who dared to question the status quo have played a pivotal role in shaping our understanding of the world. By engaging in critical enquiry, these individuals have not only expanded our collective knowledge but also inspired others to follow in their footsteps and continue exploring the unknown. As Albert Einstein once said:
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
This powerful insight highlights the significance of asking questions as a means to drive progress and foster innovation. By embracing a spirit of curiosity and openness to new ideas, we can follow the examples set by trailblazers such as Galileo Galilei, Charles Darwin, Susan B. Anthony, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and bring about transformative changes within our own lives, communities, organisations and the world at large.
As children, we ask endless questions and yet as adults we often assume we have the answers. However, ask yourself: Is what I know more important than what I do not know?
The Bigger Questions Project is thus inviting us to shift away from the ‘What is the right answer?’ approach and bring a ‘What is the right question?’ attitude to every moment of every day. It isn’t necessarily about brainstorming all day but rather continually asking ourselves simple questions like: What assumptions am I making? How are they colouring my thinking? What would my mentor / coach ask? It is also about finding our own questions.
Nevertheless, as has been noted by Warren Berger in his book A More Beautiful Question, questioning without action is philosophy (Q – A = P). It is only when we add action into the equation by truly living into these questions that we bring innovation to our lives, businesses and societies. The Bigger Questions Project does not, therefore, seek to question just to question but rather, in the words of Shane Parrish – the founder of the Knowledge Project, to:
“…open a space in [our minds] that allow better answers to breathe.”