Some Beautiful Questions for Author Warren Berger

This past April, I was delighted to be included in Warren Berger’s new book, “A More Beautiful Question [AMBQ].” My contribution was to muse on “Where is our petri dish?” Warren translates my question to, “Where in the company is it safe to ask radical questions.” Parts of our dialogue appeared in a post on Fast Company's Co. Design blog.

I’ve been a fan of Warren’s writing since “Glimmer.” He has a unique ability to zero-in on the practices that take design thinking from good-to-amazing. AMBQ is flat-out terrific. It gets you thinking less about the solution and more about the act of wondering and framing that leads you to unexpected – and often jaw-dropping – solutions.

In the spirit of Beautiful Questions, Warren was kind enough to let me pose some questions of my own recently. Here is how it went: 

Tim: A mentor taught me that ‘You teach what you most want to learn.’ So, how did your thesis evolve as you developed AMBQ? That is, what is something that you learned that surprised you? 

Warren: What surprised me was the power of questions, which extended far beyond what I originally thought. I started out focused on questions as a starting point of innovation, which is true and a big part of the book. But what I also learned is that questions can be great motivators: we can use questions as a tool to persuade, to engage people's interest, or to get ourselves to take on new challenges and overcome fear of failure. I've come to believe questions are so engaging and powerful that I now think companies should ditch their mission statements and have a "mission question" instead--I think people would be more likely to rally around that. On a more personal level, I also think people should replace their New Year's resolutions with questions (instead of declaring "I shall do X or Y!" ask "How might I do X or Y?)  

Tim: Neuroscience Rick Hanson is fond of saying ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together.’ How has the writing of AMBQ changed your brain? Do you interpret the world differently as a result? 

Warren: Yes. Questioning is a habit of mind, and I have developed more of the habit of just stepping back and questioning everyday things a little more than I used to. This is mostly a good thing, though one has to be careful not to annoy others with too many Why questions (there is a reason why the 5 whys stops at 5 -- ask any more, and someone is likely to strangle you. I also have begun to apply the "Why - What if - How" sequence of questioning to various problems, including everyday issues. I find it's just a good way to structure your questions so they lead in the direction of taking action. 

What are some of your Beautiful Questions? Has asking questions impacted your life? Send me a message: tim@peerinsight.com