Questions Are The Answer: A Breakthrough Approach To Your Most Vexing Problems At Work And In Life, by Hal Gregersen
My thoughts on this book, and that of many books like it in the subject of creativity, are decidedly mixed. To be sure, there are great insights to be made when it comes to asking questions, since asking the right questions can lead one to starkly unusual conclusions. So often, though, this author (and many others like him) are simply interested in praising novelty without reflecting on the moral value of questioning (or not questioning). All too often being a rebel and questioning authority and showing hostility to traditional ways and approaches is viewed as an end in itself, and not as a means to an end of creating a more just and more morally upright society. Although there are many ways this book does encourage an appropriate attitude of asking why and how and why not, the fundamental purpose of simply being unconventional is itself not a sufficient or a worthwhile end in life but rather is one aspect of being potentially good. Why is it that people think that novelty itself and the unconventionality it represents is the highest good? That is a question this book does not think to ask.
After a foreword, this book of about 300 pages begins with a discussion of why the book was written as a celebration of those who ask questions. The author then discusses what is harder than finding new answers, and that is finding new questions to ask that can generate research and problem solving efforts (1). The author examines several reasons why we do not ask more (2), including the very important way that children ask very well and that adults, especially those in positions of authority, tend to find questions rather irksome because they do not always want the answers. The author examines brainstorming for questions (3) as well as the way that few people revel in being wrong (4). After that the author questions why people would want discomfort (5) as well as the question of whether we will be quiet (6). This leads to a question of how to channel the energy of questioning (7), some thoughts on how to raise a generation of those who will question in the next generation (8), and a look at aiming for the biggest questions (9). The author then ask the reader what one will ask of oneself and closes with acknowledgements, notes, and an index.
There are definitely worthwhile questions to ask a book like this, and by examining the author’s unexamined worldview assumptions–such as the question of why it is that novelty and unconventionality are to be praised regardless of where they lead, or the question of why it is that so many people who like to write on and support creativity are so hostile to biblical morality and the authority of God. In a way, asking this sort of question about a book like this honors the question-asking intents of the book even if it demonstrates that the sorts of questions that we will ask depend a great deal on our worldview and on the way in which the injustices and follies of the world impact our own lives. To be sure, the questions examined in this book are rather one-sided in nature, but it is very easy to see how someone with a different political and religious worldview than the author will be able to celebrate and ask a great many questions that the author never even thinks to examine that will be just as important in shaping the way that the world works in the future. And if everyone is asking questions from all sides, we will all be motivated to look for better answers.