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Opening Keynote: Finding Your Why, Featuring Warren Berger, Author of A More Beautiful Question

July 20 @ 9:50 am - 11:15 am

In this presentation, the best-selling author and “questionologist”, Warren Berger, will show you how to tap into the power of questioning to reaffirm your purpose, clarify your goals, and spark creativity and innovation in your work.

Warren Berger, Author, A More Beautiful Question

Notes

  • Advocate for asking questions? Isn’t that like advocating for breathing?
  • They will do this, but asking questions is like a swiss army knife
    • Don’t use it that much, but we only use one small part of it
    • Rote questions – how are you, how’s it going?
    • We don’t use the rest of the many questions you can use
    • If you use questions the right way it can help you innovate, communicate with others, and improve your relationship with your spouse
    • Clarify and strengthen your sense of purpose
  • If you have a strong enough why, you can deal with almost any how. – Nietzsche 
    • Why do I do it the way I do it? Force yourself to think about it, and reaffirm your values. What you are doing right, can ir be done differently? 
    • Self-questioning can be powerful
  • Questionologist: One who studies the art or science of questioning
    • Writing for publications, reporter – use these questions every day for work
    • Journalism school never taught me about questioning that I do all-day
    • Writing about innovators/business leaders for Wired magazine
    • Innovators are great questioners – come up with new ideas, explore new areas
    • There ought to be a study!
      • Why isn’t there something called questionology?
      • What if I just declared myself a questionologist? I did this in the NYT, and nobody questioned it!
    • Contacts started coming in about this: 
      • US Army
      • Boeing
      • Chanel
      • Pepsi
      • Starbucks
      • NASA
      • Microsoft
      • Pfizer
      • Disney
    • Questioning is the starting point of innovation
      • Airbnb – nobody can get a hotel room, realized friends had empty rooms/sofabeds. Asked why hasn’t somebody connected people who need a bed to people who have a bed? Led to a billion dollar industry.
    • Stories involve somebody asking a “why” question
      • If you find the right question, you can make a billion dollars! How do we find the question?
  • How do you become a better questioner? 
    • What if you could adopt the techniques of the all-time greatest questioner? 
    • Who is the GOAT of questioners?
    • Steve Jobs
      • “Throughout the years in business, I found something – which is, I always asked why we’re doing things the way we’re doing them.” 
      • People have ways of doing things – the accounting department does things this way for years. Why are you using this method? 
      • Forces them to reassess – keeps the company on its toes
    • Oprah Winfrey
      • “Ask the right questions and the answers will always reveal themselves.” 
    • Albert Einstein
      • “ If you had to solve a problem, and had an hour to solve it, you should spend the first 55 minutes making sure you’re solving the right question.”
    • Jane Goodall
      • “What makes us human, I think, is our ability to ask questions.”
    • George Carlin
      • “If the black box flight recorder is never damaged in a plane crash, why isn’t the whole damn airplane made of that?”
    • GOAT is a 4-year-old girl
      • More than 300 questions a day
      • “Why can’t we go outside to play” We can’t do that? Why? Because water is coming down from the sky? Because it was in a cloud. Why? Because clouds form from water vapor? Why? Because I didn’t pay attention in school. 
    • What about when I don’t have all the answers? 
      • It’s okay, you encourage the question. 
    • Why is this important?
      • Amount of questioning declines as we age
      • Knowledge, fear, time 
      • The more we know, the less we question
      • The same is true – the more we do, the less we question. “Trap of expertise” 
      • Fall out of touch quickly
      • 5-year-olds aren’t afraid – no fear of peer pressure etc.
    • In light of this:
      • Release your inner 4-year-old
      • Curiosity is the itch, questioning is how we scratch it
      • We are naturally curious – a state, not a trait
      • State that brings out curiosity is being safe – brings out curiosity
    • Neoteny – “Beginner’s mind”
      • Retention of childlike attributes in adulthood
      • If you try to behave like you’re younger, you’ll naturally be more curious
      • See with a fresh eye, and ask why
    • Don’t just ask why – great question but you’re going in a circle
      • Start with why but then ask different types of questions
      • Why? > What if? > How? > Solution
      • Why – understand the problem
      • What if – imagine and ideate
      • How – practical solutions
      • You can use this to solve almost any problem
      • We jump to how – if you open a questioning mindset it will lead to good solutions but you need time to make it work
    • Carlin – some people see things that are and ask why. Some people dream of things that never were and ask, why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for that s***.
  • Work your questioning muscles
    • Exercise – questions only, no answers
      • Involves a balance of humility, confidence, vs curiosity
      • Be humble enough to admit you don’t have the answers, confident enough to know that people will still follow you
    • Ask authentic questions (don’t be a question jerk)
      • You actually want to know the answer
      • NOT: What were you thinking? Don’t you realize how important this project is? Haven’t we tried this already?
      • These are demotivating – you want to inspire and motivate. What do you think is possible? What are some of the ideas you’re working on? 
    • Embrace the power of “how might we?”
      • How = figure out
      • Might = possibilities
      • We = together
      • “How can we” or “How should we” suggests judgment – finding the “right” way
      • Might open up possibilities
    • Sets up a collaborative inquiry
      • Rally people around “mission questions”
      • How might we address this problem
      • In the business world, tells companies (like Starbucks) that they should get rid of mission statements, and replace them with a mission question
      • Instead of “we make the world a better place through robotics,” say “How might we make the world a better place through robotics?” – invites collaboration
  • Resources
  • Why questioning matters
    • We have more and bigger problems to solve
    • We need new questions to solve bigger problems
    • Rally people around challenges
    • Present engaging, motivating questions
    • Don’t tell them what to do, yell at them, give statements
    • Reach across the divide
    • Show curiosity over judgment
    • Think critically – crisis in critical thinking
    • “If we are not able to ask skeptical questions to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, then we are up for grabs for the next charlatan who comes along.” – Carl Sagan
    • Skeptical questions can go wrong – things that are proven facts, agreed-upon societal norms, asking “why should we” is dangerous
    • Learn about the difference between the skepticism a scientist does vs. denialism
    • Not devil’s advocate – we need angel’s advocates

Q&A 

  • How to manage paralysis by analysis? When have we asked enough? 
    • We can’t afford to be philosophers, how do we avoid asking questions all day and not get things done? 
    • Create forward motion – don’t just ask why. It’s a good trick to move forward. Pick a possibility and move forward. Diverge, then converge (design thinking)
  • We struggle with getting feedback from stakeholders. Results in us talking at them – how do you foster the questioning mindset/pull questions out of them? 
    • Small groups of no more than 6
    • Feel free to ask whatever question they want, won’t do it in front of a larger group
    • Lay out rules – this is what we’re looking for, any question is good. 
    • Ask to get 40 questions in 5 minutes – forces a lot of questions
  • Steve Jobs – how would you flip it for asking Steve Jobs (in authority positions, elected officials etc.)
    • A leader has to be willing to let that happen
    • You can ask difficult questions by creatively phrasing questions
    • “I hope you don’t mind my asking why we do this” 
    • “I’m curious about…”
    • If you don’t preface a question with this, it sounds more aggressive/judgmental/attacking
    • Use language to soften the question – show that it is coming from curiosity
  • What about anonymous questions? 
    • Have to be careful – don’t just make a place to complain with a question mark behind it
    • Pundits will put provocative statements as a question
    • “I’m just asking questions”
    • JAQing off (Just Asking Questions) – used to excuse bad behavior
    • Encourage responsible question asking & curiosity
  • Thoughts on questions asked in duress/in stressful environments
    • Design questions in a hostile environment thoughtfully – not too aggressive, upset people etc.
    • You want respondents relaxed
    • Hostage negotiators – relieve pressure, lower temperature, open up
  • When asking a question, you don’t really want to hear the answer
    • True, happens a lot
    • Organizations don’t really want to hear the answers – just going through the motions
    • Tough nut to crack
  • Doctors might ask questions, go between people to get the “right” answer

Details

Date:
July 20
Time:
9:50 am - 11:15 am
Event Category:
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