How often do you hear or say, “there are no stupid questions”? If you are like me, often enough! Whenever I hear or use that phrase, it reminds me of a project I was involved with earlier in my career. I was supporting a client during a demo and introducing him to the nuances of a new financial system they were about to implement. By that point, I had handled several similar projects and learned something new from each. One of my biggest learnings is that no system is perfect or perfectly suited to a client’s needs.
During the demo session, I often prompted the client to ask questions, both to ensure he fully understood the system, and to build rapport, collaboration, and a relationship. As we dug deeper into the system, I watched the client’s initial hesitation change to a genuine thirst for clarity. The shift was evident in the questions he directed to me. Instead of answering his questions directly, I suggested he present them to the demonstrator. Why? Because open dialogue, especially in a collaborative setting, doesn’t just lead to personal enlightenment; it also fosters collective growth. It allows for shared moments of realization, where everyone involved benefits from the discussion. In group settings, such as the demo session, questions aren’t just tools to fill a gap in one’s understanding. They are catalysts that foster an environment of collaboration and joint problem-solving. When one person steps forward with a question, it often creates a ripple effect. It often leads to more questions, robust discussions and the unearthing of innovative solutions and ideas that might have otherwise remained buried. It can also lead to early identification of issues, allowing the group time to resolve them before they become bigger problems.
It’s also an interesting dynamic, that once started, creates an unspoken camaraderie among the group. Often, individuals are restrained by self-doubt or the fear of appearing uninformed and hesitant to raise questions. But when one person breaks that barrier and voices a question, it often resonates with others who shared the same uncertainty. When the question is positively received and responded to, it becomes clear that questions aren’t signs of weakness but of engagement and keen interest.
That day with my client was more than just a lesson in financial systems. I gained insight to the power of inquiry, the strength of collaborative exploration, and the realization that knowledge grows exponentially when shared. As an added benefit, a new relationship was formed based on mutual respect. I realized that while one person’s question increases their own understanding, it also paves the way for a group’s collective knowledge if the question is asked for the benefit of the group.
So, whenever you find yourself grappling with a doubt or pondering a thought, don’t hesitate to voice it. Whether in a professional setting or a casual conversation, embrace the potential of your questions. Understand that they can not only clear your path but also light the way for others. Speak up, lean into collaboration, and remember that in the journey of understanding, every question holds the power to elevate the collective.
Let me know what you are curious about. If I don’t know the answer, I will find it for you.
“Don’t be afraid to ask the ‘dumb’ question; everyone else will be relieved you had the guts to ask!” – Sheryl Sandberg
Have an inquisitive weekend.