A question is a sentence composed or expressed to obtain information.
In the Learning Cycle, these are what set the cycle in motion.
However not all questions are created equally.
Some open your mind, others limit you or put you against the wall.
When we talk about learning and developing as individuals, we need to be very aware of the kind of questions we ask, how often we ask them, and the depth of these questions.
But, before we understand about questions, let’s investigate why we don’t ask them.
Escape to Shame
If when you were a child someone made you feel like a fool for asking a question that according to that person “you should already know” their answer, then it’s likely that something deep inside you associated asking questions with the danger of feeling embarrassed.
Without going too far into your childhood, search your memory for an episode in your adult life when you felt embarrassed when you tried to ask about something, and decided not to.
The Chinese proverb says:
“Whoever asks a question is ignorant for five minutes; whoever doesn’t ask it will be ignorant for life”.
Motivational? If I practice? Nope.
The question is, after years of preferring silence to being ridiculed, how can we reverse that?
Let me share something that works for me all the time:
The Magical Words
When learning about a new topic, instead of asking a person, simply pick up your phone and say the magic words: (depending on your favorite smartphone flavor; Android or iOS) “Hey Google…” or “Hey Siri…” and then ask your question.
That ‘s all.
You don’t even need to write the question.
Just speak it to the “digital ether” and wait for the answer.
A simple question is capable of activating your curiosity. A simple question is what will lead you to adventures in the Rabbit Hole.
And, in case it wasn’t already clear, the technology won’t judge you for asking questions. Remember that the next time you feel embarrassed.
Now, we go to the next level: What questions should we ask to accelerate learning about a topic that interests us?
Apply the 6WH Technique
This is where 6WH will help us.
6WH refers to the base questions:
Imagine the situation where you want to solve a RubiK’s Cube.
Trying to solve it by observing only one of the faces
would be a very complicated task. That’s why to solve it, you eventually rotate the cube to find the pieces that help you solve it.
Each of the questions you ask using one of these 7 alternatives will help you appreciate what you want to solve from different angles.
I know this sounds obvious, however, forgetting common sense in some secret hiding place is more common than we imagine.
Now, what this looks like in practice:
Let’s do it
Suppose you want to learn about Bioengineering.
Keep in mind that 6WH serves as a kind of drill that allows you to go deeper into a specific topic.
In this case, the first “dumb” question, the simplest one to ask, is: “(Ok Google…) What is Bio-engineering?”
Answer: “Biological engineering or bioengineering (which includes biological systems engineering), is a discipline that applies physical-mathematical concepts and methods to solve problems in the life sciences, using analytical and synthetic engineering methodologies”.
Good! This provides ammunition for deeper questions. For example:
- What concepts and methods are applied in Bioengineering?
- What problems exist in the life sciences?
- When is Bioengineering used?
- Where is Bioengineering used?
- Why is Bioengineering studied?
- What are the engineering methods applied to Bioengineering?
- Who are the experts in this area?
- What are the best books and authors about it?
- Which YouTube channels are the most informative?
- What route should I follow to apply this knowledge? (Maturity Model)
- How can I practice Bioengineering?
Keep in mind that sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, so your first question will be exploration (Explorer Mode).
In other cases, when you already have some prior knowledge, then you will ask a more specific question (Sniper Mode). For example: What’s the relationship between bioengineering and homeostasis?
Finally, remember that when you find yourself stuck in some area of life and can’t find a solution, it’s probably because you’re asking the same question over and over again. So how about changing your question?
So what’s the simplest question you’ll ask today? Let me know in the comments.
Keep on Learning,