Thursday, May 10, 2007

What's in a question? (Or, how to get better answers).

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." - Pablo Picasso
I sometimes find myself in a situation where I want to know more about X, but can't think of the right questions to ask to get me to the kind of answer I want. For example, when trying to learn about about patrons' needs, what questions do I ask and how do I ask them to get an honest answer that gets beneath the surface? I wish it were as easy a saying, "Hey, Patron! What do you need?" but alas, it's not. Some of the best marketing breakthroughs come from questioning assumptions and the way things have always been, which is why good questioning skills are also good marketing skills. What are the best questions to ask to get to the best answers?

In my quest for questions, I came across a Web site, which has a page on the art of questioning. It lists 19 types of questions (Did you know there are types other than open and closed?!). My favorite for marketing purposes, particularly when looking for new insights and innovations, is Socratic questioning. Socratic questions prompt people to reevaluate assumptions with inquiries like, "How could you look at this differently?", "Why is __ important?" and "What are you assuming?"

Personally, there are a few questions I'm partial to for generating ideas:
  • Why?
  • Why not?
  • What else is like this?
  • What's the opposite of this?
  • What's the point?
Questioning truly is an art that can yield amazing insights. Please share your favorite questions!


Amanda Werhane said...

Great link - thanks! I'll suggest this topic for our upcoming campus Reference Retreat.

James said...

Man, I'm *always* wanting to know more about X. But only sometimes Y.

Jill said...

Glad you liked it, Amanda! Let me know how the retreat goes. :-)

Jill said...

James: I can always count on you for a hilarious comment - thanks! :-D