The answer is obvious

My “old” research supervisor once told me (slightly paraphrased): “Once you know the right question, then the answer is obvious”. Of course, the real trick is to find the questions that you can answer with very limited resources – without limiting yourself to what you already know; or think you know.

And therein lies the all to common trap – focus only what you know and you’ll ask the wrong questions leading to poor conclusions and rework. The goal of questioning must also be clear.

This is also why issue based consulting methodologies like “The Pyramid Principle” by Barbara Minto become problematic. Under the usual cost and schedule pressures, progress and deliverables are easier to reach through clarifying questions – they get a tick for successful engagement; but miss the bigger, more important questions. They fail their clients by not acting as a change facilitator. As one of my clients once said: “Request a consultant to tell you the time, they’ll grab your wrist and look at your watch”.

References:
[1] Tom Pohlmann & Neethi Mary Thomas, “Relearning the Art of Asking Questions”, https://hbr.org/2015/03/relearning-the-art-of-asking-questions
[2] Barbara Minto, “The Minto Pyramid Principle Concept”, http://www.barbaraminto.com/concept.html

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