We live in a culture that prizes knowledge. A culture that favours answers over questions. For example, when was the last time you met someone who was hired for what they question rather than for what they know? And yet, what do we actually know? Is what was true yesterday still true today?

This pursuit of knowledge has real consequences. For starters, the bulk of most educational systems are designed to impart knowledge rather than encourage questioning.

Our media reports arbitrary “facts” about the world but often struggles to place this “news” in a bigger picture and rarely asks us to question what we are being told and not being told.

And yet, particularly in the realm of human psychology, knowledge is not only partial but context specific. A news story is nothing if it doesn’t question its very basis: Why is this news? In terms of context, what may work for one brand in one country may bomb in another.

What if instead we switched to a pursuit of questions? To thinking not in terms of what we know but what we don’t. To not treating knowledge as an end product, a thing to be acquired, stored and revered, but rather an ongoing process. As Einstein noted:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

The invitation is thus to think in terms of questions. Knowledge is built on the past. Questions are about the present and the future.

Questions in the Image:

  • What do I know?
  • What does knowing mean?
  • What comfort does it offer?
  • What does it hide?
  • What do I not know?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire (link to Amazon.co.uk). This book delves into the idea of education as a practice of freedom, rather than a way of maintaining the status quo. It suggests that through questioning and critical thinking, individuals can challenge and transform the world around them.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. Long story but let’s just say that I am reminded today of William Edwards Deming‘s statement that “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets“. Every time I meet what to me feels like senseless bureaucracy, I am reminded that the system is in fact working perfectly, just not for me. The question then is “Who is the system benefitting?” My contention would simply be that all public services and decision-making be built around this core question. It is important to unearth what group or section of society is benefitting. You could also reverse the process by starting with the statement “We want the system to work for [this group]. What would need to happen for that to be true?”

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

How Might Tom Help?

  1. My first invitation is to take maximum advantage of the free content on this site.
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