Big problems are often solved with little questions.

November 30, 2016 - 4:01 pm

Several years ago, nutritionist Jerry Sternin came up with a way to reduce malnutrition in Vietnam. And he did it with one simple question.

Sternin searched out a few villagers whose children seemed better nourished than other Vietnamese kids and asked them, “How are you feeding your children?”

Turns out those parents were putting sweet potato greens in their children’s rice and giving them several small feedings each day rather than two larger meals.

Sternin began spreading the method to other villagers, and, according to Dr. Atul Gawandi, childhood malnutrition in Vietnam dropped by more than 65 percent.

Big problems can often be solved with little questions. Because questions loosen the ligaments of cramped minds. Answers gained from asking lots of questions can stretch us out of trying to a solve problem with the same thinking that often caused the problem.

This is true whether we dealing with global problems or local problems, problems in the business of our client or problems in our own workplace.

So why do we often resist asking lots of questions?

It’s an adult thing. Research shows that asking questions peaks around age 5 and then steadily drops off, according to Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question.

“By the time we’re in the workplace, many of us have gotten out of the habit of asking fundamental questions about what’s going on around us,” says Berger. “And some people worry that asking questions at work reveals ignorance or may be seen as slowing things down.”

Well, I say let’s slow down, play dumb and ask questions. Ask your clients and customers more questions. Ask your prospects more questions. Ask your team members more questions. Ask yourself more questions.

Creative insights and solutions come from having our questions answered and our answers questioned.

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