Posted by: Clive | June 5, 2008

Asking Questions

I often feel stressed when I’m stretching myself (or being pulled) beyond a level where I can honestly ‘cope’ with the task at hand (or, as is often the case, the task promised/commissioned). I’m trying to build a greenhouse in the back garden at the moment and really my skills don’t match the mental image I have in my head of what I think the greenhouse could look like. I get stressed. I’m trying to formulate a perspective on an aspect of communication and democracy in the context of the Cuban blogosphere but I really haven’t done enough reading to enable me to make progress. I know where I want to go with it but can’t get there. I get stressed. Now a bit of stress is OK but too much just gets in the way of doing anything productive. I think I have a way out though: questions. If I generate enough questions then my mind gets happily diverted from the responsibility of having to provide the answers. It’s not a let out. Get the questions right (particular the order of difficulty) and they can act as a scaffold to allow you to progress towards the kinds of knowledge needed to get things done.
I’m reflecting on this now because I did give some advice today to a student which was about asking the questions and not assuming people think you have the answers – people will always try to go that way but it’s just a trick to put the pressure on you … which takes it away from them! I think it’s also relevant to those of you thinking you should have a research project sorted out by now. You may be stressing about it. Don’t. Think about some questions.
And by pure chance I came across an interesting post today on Dave Gray’s blog which makes the case more in far more articulate and analytical detail:

You can think of a question as a tool that you can use to increase your
knowledge or reduce uncertainty. In fact, a question may be the most
basic tool for gaining knowledge and working with information. If this
is so, then it makes sense to ask which kinds of questions are best
suited to different kinds of information challenges. A set of standard
questions that can be applied consistently to different situations
might form the basis of a standard toolkit for information discovery
and design.

He then goes on to look at the set of questions: prism questions; razor questions; generators; peelers; flankers; splicers; and pointers. It’s an interesting set with examples. It’ll help me and maybe you could use it to develop your own ideas and keep the stress down.

In the meantime … here’s the greenhouse-in-process!



  1. […] C, J. (2008) Asking Questions (accessed June 10, 2008). Archived at […]

  2. Clive, how are your onions? I think your greenhouse is impressive, the panel reminds me of a Japanese screen.

    Thinking about questions – I got very nostalgic thinking about my son as a toddler, who said ‘why?’, ‘why?’, ‘why?’ on a loop. Why was that?

    It didn’t last, and at school my kids seem to answer questions, not ask them.

  3. […] A couple of weeks ago I posted about the importance of asking questions in developing understanding and moving your project along. In a recent post Katy responded by […]

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