From a young age our educational systems teach us that questions are merely devices for uncovering answers. Once a question has been answered it is of no further use.

The title may be a little provocative but in a world with an inherent bias for answers it is worth asking:

Why are answers more important?

Personally, I increasingly find that there is a freedom in just living with questions without necessarily seeking answers. I first started thinking about this when I asked my young son “Which are more important: Questions or answers?”. He thought for a moment and confidently told me “Questions obviously. You can’t have answers without questions but you can have questions without answers.”

All true and yet there is more. Answers are also limited to what we know and can offer an illusion of certainty or narrow a conversation.

Questions, on the other hand, open us up to infinite knowledge and paradoxically to not knowing.

I suppose it really depends how we view life. A quest for answers is a quest for certainty whereas a quest for better questions is a quest for possibility…

Further Reflection

I was once again asked whether questions or answers are more important, so it felt relevant to add this here:

  • Questions are questions and answers are answers.
  • Questions don’t become answers.
  • Questions can live without answers.
  • Answers are dependent on questions to bring them to life.

It is not therefore that one is necessarily more important that the other.

They are simply different parts of the same conversation.

Nevertheless, I increasingly see questions as eternal and answers as temporary.

Question in the Image:

  • Do I Learn More from Questions or Answers?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger (link to Amazon.co.uk). This book delves into the importance of questioning in life and work, exploring how the most creative, successful people tend to be expert questioners. It offers practical insights on how to cultivate the art of asking more and more effective questions.

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. This morning I read a Zen koan (a short parable used for practice) entitled “Snapping the Fingers” about Zengetsu, a monk poet, who wrote a poem but wasn’t able to apply the principles addressed in the poem. The accompanying commentary asks the question: “Many priests and scholars can give wonderful lectures, but how many are able to live them?” In essence, this applies to all of humanity in the form of Do we live what we preach? Or alternatively: Do we preach what we live?

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?

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