Get Knowledge By Asking 5 Types Of Questions

Knowledge Comes From Curiosity

We all know that knowledge is power. But do you know that knowledge comes from curiosity?

Which means that by being curious and asking questions of others and of yourself, you gain knowledge. Questions like:

What you really want to achieve?

What has been done in the past?

What worked, what didn’t work, and why?

What are the risks you’re willing to take?

Questions about the marketplace.

Questions about the competitors.

So the more curious you are, the more knowledge you’ll get.

But the questions we ask must be good questions that will give us an insight we didn’t have before. Questions that will challenge what we think we already know. Questions that lead to other questions that you would not have asked if you hadn’t asked that first question.

5 Types Of Questions To Ask

Instead of asking random questions, we need to structure our questions by grouping them into 5 groups.

  • Essential
  • Subsidiary
  • Hypothetical
  • Best Practice
  • Clarification

Type 1: Essential Questions

Essential questions are questions that deal with the big picture.

They are important fundamental questions like:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does success mean to us?
  • What are we trying to achieve?

Always start by asking essential questions. Because without the answers to these fundamental questions, we can end up making some very wrong conclusions.

Type 2: Subsidiary Questions

Subsidiary questions build on the answers to essential questions by giving us more depth and insight.

For example if the essential question is “What business are we in?”

The subsidiary questions can be:

  • How has our industry changed and evolved?
  • What new trends are emerging?
  • How big is this industry?
  • What are the industry’s prospects for growth?
  • Is it a sunset industry?

By asking these subsidiary questions, we gain in-depth knowledge of the industry.

Type 3: Hypothetical Questions

Hypothetical questions pose scenarios so that we can anticipate the impact of an action or decision, or of a different situation. Meaning, they explore the various possibilities and ideas by projecting a theory or an option into the future, then asking what kind of outcomes we might expect.

Hypothetical questions do not recommend or commit to anything. They are raised to aid discussion.

Such questions usually start with “What if?”

For example:

  • What if we increased the serving size?
  • What if we acquire our major competitor?
  • What if the government regulated the banking industry?

Type 4: Best Practices Questions

By asking best practices questions, we can benefit from knowing how someone, somewhere has tackled similar problems/situations.

Best practices questions can help us avoid re-inventing the wheel, but instead learn from the experiences of others. They give us fresh ideas, insights and inspiration by looking outside of our organisation or even our own industry.

For example:

  • Which retailer is the best in the world? How did they become the best?
  • Who is most successful in penetrating into a certain market or geography?
  • How did that company create such a fun and innovative working culture?

You should use the answers to the above questions as inspiration and develop your own approach for success. You could be more effective in anything you do – just by learning from the best.

A great way to emulate and learn from the best people is by reading their autobiographies. Let Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Walt Disney and Steve Jobs tell you how they did it.

Type 5: Clarification Questions

The information we’re given are rarely complete or in a form that is useful for us. Instead of just accepting what we’ve been given, it helps to probe, prod or push for more complete information.

By asking questions to clarify, we actually go beyond the simple answers given to us and find the real issue beneath.

Clarification questions allow us to probe in a non-invasive manner.

For example:

  • When you say “they don’t buy often”, how often do you think they’ll buy?
  • You mentioned that women do not like our image. Why is that so?
  • You said the target market is males 20 – 40 years old. Which group do you think were the major users of our product? Are they the ones you will be targeting for your next campaign?

These clarification questions will ensure you don’t make inaccurate assumptions or simply accept the first answer that comes your way.

Question, Not Interrogate!

Do not get too aggressive when asking your questions. You don’t want to offend or put people off, or cause them to be over-defensive with your “interrogation”.

Show them that you’re all on the same team. Show them that you are not looking for scapegoats for why things didn’t work out or past failures. Show them that you are not questioning their wisdom, past actions, or knowledge.

Remember, nobody likes to be interrogated. Be inquisitive, ask good questions and gain useful knowledge.

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