Cornerstone: Asking Good Questions - Gateway to True Intelligence
This is one of the 6 cornerstones of our Manifesto. Read the Manifesto it here
"If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes."
- Albert Einstein
“Highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.”
In the ever-changing landscape of human advancement, one principle remains unwavering: the immense power of inquiry. From the deep annals of history to the transformative digital age, the act of asking questions has consistently served as a catalyst for change, exploration, and enlightenment.
Today, as we stand at the threshold of a new era, we find ourselves at the crossroads of human intellect and artificial intelligence (AI). It's a convergence where human curiosity meets AI's potential—a juncture where questions not only serve as tools for understanding but also as guidance through the intricacies of the digital landscape.
The ability to ask good questions holds profound importance in nearly every facet of life and helps us navigate the complexities of our world:
Seeking Knowledge and Understanding: At the core of asking good questions lies the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Whether in academia, science, or everyday life, questions are the gateway to unraveling mysteries, solving problems, and expanding our intellectual horizons. They drive curiosity and facilitate the acquisition of new information.
Fostering Critical Thinking: Questioning is a cornerstone of critical thinking—an essential skill in the modern world. By asking thought-provoking questions, individuals can evaluate information, assess its validity, and make informed decisions. This skill is vital for navigating an information-rich society.
Encouraging Creativity and Innovation: Innovation thrives on curiosity and inquiry. Creative thinkers often challenge the status quo by asking unconventional questions. These questions lead to fresh perspectives, novel solutions, and groundbreaking inventions that shape our world.
Enhancing Communication and Building Stronger Relationships: Effective communication is built on the foundation of questions. Asking about someone's thoughts, feelings, and experiences not only demonstrates genuine interest but also fosters empathy and understanding. It deepens connections and enhances interpersonal relationships.
Problem-Solving and Decision-Making: Questions are invaluable tools for problem-solving and decision-making. They help individuals identify challenges, explore potential solutions, and weigh the pros and cons of various options. In personal and professional settings, this skill aids in resolving conflicts and making choices aligned with one's values.
Promoting Ethical Consideration: Ethical dilemmas often demand introspection and ethical questioning. By asking questions about the consequences of our actions, we ensure that our decisions align with our moral principles. This leads to responsible and ethical behavior.
Navigating Complex Issues: Our world is replete with complex issues, from global challenges like climate change to personal dilemmas. Asking the right questions is essential for breaking down intricate problems into manageable components, making them more approachable and solvable.
Personal Growth and Self-Reflection: Asking questions about oneself and one's experiences fosters personal growth and self-reflection. It prompts individuals to examine their beliefs, motivations, and aspirations, leading to self-awareness and continuous self-improvement.
Encouraging Lifelong Learning: Lifelong learning is a cornerstone of personal development and adaptability. By continually asking questions, individuals remain open to new ideas and experiences, ensuring that they stay engaged, relevant, and informed throughout their lives.
Empowering Advocacy and Change: In advocacy and social change efforts, questions are powerful tools for raising awareness and challenging the status quo. They prompt individuals and societies to confront pressing issues and drive meaningful change.
Greek philosopher Socrates recognized the importance of questioning, famously employing a method currently known as the Socratic Method. It is based on the practice of disciplined, rigorously thoughtful dialogue and is a powerful approach to inquiry that seeks to stimulate critical thinking, elicit deeper insights, and uncover underlying assumptions. While it has its roots in philosophy, the Socratic method has been widely used in psychology, education and can be effectively applied to the business context, helping organizations navigate complex issues, enhance decision-making, and foster a culture of continuous improvement. Socratic questioning is characterized by its emphasis on open-ended queries that encourage reflection and self-discovery. Instead of providing answers, the Socratic method challenges individuals to explore their own beliefs, assumptions, and reasoning. This approach is especially valuable in business settings, where critical thinking and sound decision-making are paramount. And especially in the context of AI it is the most meaningful approach to get at the heart of ethical dilemmas and the principles of moral character.
Some of the examples of Socratic open-ended questions would be the following:
What do you mean by that?
Why do you think that's true?
How does this relate to our discussion?
What could we assume instead?
How can you verify or disprove that assumption?
What other information do we need?
What are other ways we could approach this problem?
What's the worst thing that could happen if we tried this project?
These questions might seem too easy or obvious but it is also easy to lose sight of it every now and then. That’s why it’s important to make it a part of organizational culture. But can humans learn how to ask good questions, and if so, how can they develop this invaluable skill? The answer is a resounding yes but before you start channeling your inner Socrates make sure that you adopt an open mindset and drop the ego. You'll need to challenge others, and you'll be challenged in return. This will be uncomfortable at first but enjoyable as practiced.
Inquisitive mindset and Socratic methods are embedded at the heart of our organizational culture as well as in all our products and services that serve our partners and clients. We will be heavily incorporating templates of ‘good questions’ in our software products, sharing our questioning skills in our educational services and encouraging a curious mindset in our community from which we source collective intelligence.
In the age of AI, it's crucial to understand that AI is not a threat to replace human intelligence but a powerful tool that complements and amplifies our abilities. Now is the time for the most important human skills to shine. Curiosity and questioning, intuitiveness, and continuous introspection are the cornerstones of human intelligence that will guide us in harnessing the potential of AI.
After all, in order to receive the best answer from chatGPT or other LLMs, you need to ask them good questions, which in fact is leading to the emergence of a new profession, prompt engineer. AI is not an end to human intelligence, it might actually be a (re)start of it.
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