Friday, August 11, 2006

Why Do You Ask?

Yesterday, I was in a meeting with George, our new regional sales manager, when I learned something important.

In the course of the presentation (we were recruiting a CIO for the beta program of our latest product), we answered a lot of detailed technical questions. George's suggestion was simple:

"Chris, after you answer the question, simply say, 'Now that's a great question. Why did you ask it?"

By asking "Why did you just ask that question?" (after actually answering it, of course--nothing is more annoying than someone who dodges answering a question by asking one in turn), you can understand what triggered their curiosity, and what larger issues might not be addressed by a simple, instinctive answer.


Rebe said...

That's funny. It reminds me of Socrates. I think it was him. That philosopher that used to answer back questions with another question. In doing so he showed people that they sometimes had the answer to their questions themselves.

Tim Taylor said...

I like it except that I'm not a fan of identifying a question as good or great. It becomes an issue because you have to at least call all questions after that good (or keep ratcheting up the descriptors...really good, great, stupendous, mind blowing, out of this world, something like Gandhi would ask, I'm in the presence of my get the point).

Alternatively, you risk someone thinking their question isn't worthwhile. It's definitely one of those habits that as soon as I recognized it it's very observable in the moment and ultimately easily controlled.

Oh, did I mention this is a GREAT post! Ha!

Chris said...

One of the reasons that the Socratic method worked is that Socrates led people to draw their own conclusions. It's always easier to persuade people that way rather than trying to argue them into submission.