A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
by Warren Berger

I recently attended an International Coach Federation conference in Washington DC and was fortunate enough to hear Warren Berger talk about this book. He began by calling himself a questionologist!  He made up the word of course but it made me like him right away. He defined what beautiful questions do: challenge assumptions and inquiries and create fresh possibilities. He also shared many stories of how questions have led to great innovations which are peppered throughout his book. One of my favorite stories begins with a challenge to the audience: who is the most prolific questioner of all time?  If you guessed a four year old girl, then you must be a parent of a young child or a questionoligist yourself!  He tells the story of how Polaroid’s discovery of the instant camera began with the owner of the company’s young daughter asking him, while taking pictures on vacation, why she couldn’t instantly see the image?

Warren’s book and his speaking career have exploded, given that we live in uncertain times where questions are the beginning of great innovations. Questions are the new answers with the shelf life of information being very short, so we need to be a continuous learner. As a well known journalist, Warren has studied the world’s leading innovators, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers to learn how they ask questions, generate original ideas, and solve problems.  The book explains why we stop questioning as adults and explores how our public education system doesn’t really encourage questioning unless you attend the private and expensive Montessori schools.  These schools have more an inquiry-based approach. What was most astonishing was how so many former Montessori students are running major companies such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon and the cofounders of Google, Sergy Brig and Larry Page. According to people who have worked with the leaders of Google – they are always asking, “Why should it be like that?”

The approach Warren has developed to use questions for innovation is to begin with a “Why”, then ask “What if?” and move to “How”. Due to my work as an executive coach, that makes sense to me and why I  believe this approach would work for business people, teachers, parents, and athletes! Not to mention, the final two chapters in the book focus on how to use questions in business and life.  He offers simple ideas to on how to use questions for brainstorming, and how to create a culture of inquiry and more.  I love his final chapter of questioning for life. He begins by telling a story of Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of the Acumen fund, a microfinance organization.  The story begins with a young woman who graduates from college, gets a job at Chase Bank to overview loans in third world countries, thus traveling the world. But, it began to bother her seeing a lot of the entrepreneurs with bright ideas not qualifying for loans from not being credit worthy. This led her to ask some tough questions – did she want to leave a secure, well-paid job to work in the nonprofit sector to focus more on microfinance? What was important to her? What would her family think of her if she walked away from a promising business career?  The chapter explores how many people might be avoiding a life of inquiry for living a life where they didn’t step back and ask some tough questions.

The book ends with offering simple steps to try asking yourself simple questions such as “What if I tried that?” or “What would I do if I could not fail?”  Given that all of us has one life to live, it seems that we are all one beautiful question away from creating something that is uniquely our own.  This book is so well researched, well-written, and full of stories and practical advice for anyone. Why not read this book?  For more information, check out the author’s website: www.AMoreBeautifulQuestion.com

 

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