Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review of "A More Beautiful Question" by Warren Berger - Sparking Breakthrough Ideas Through Inquiry

I recently attended an excellent seminar for senior executives called "Authentic Leadership." The facilitator of my small group had some encouraging things to say about the way that I frame questions. He then added: "I think that you would enjoy reading 'A More Beautiful Question.'" At his urging, I ordered the book and found that he was correct in his prognostication. I found this book to be intriguing and inspiring.

Using some excellent cases to illustrate principles, author Warren Berger discusses "The Power of Inquiry To Spark Breakthrough Ideas." He quotes liberally from such icons of innovation as Joichi Ito of the MIT Media Lab, David Kelly of IDEO, and Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School. My office is contained within a hub of innovation, the Cambridge Innovation Center ,on the campus of MIT, so I am always intrigued to learn new lessons about innovation and the things that may spark it.

One of the threads that weaves itself throughout this book is the fact that children are natural questioners. It is only as we grow older that we tend to squelch our innate propensity to ask questions in order to better understand ourselves and the world around us. In this book, Mr. Berger offers many examples of individuals and companies that he re-learned the art of asking great questions.

I was intrigued to learn that Edwin Land, the father of instant photography, was prompted to develop this technology when his young daughter innocently asked him why they had to wait to see a photograph that he had taken when they were on vacation as a family.

He makes specific suggestions, based on research done at the Right Question Institute, regarding how to frame appropriate questions at each stage of a process of exploration, discovery and innovation. One insight that stood out for me was the use of terminology that is useful in a group setting that disarms defensive posture on the part of those participating in the conversation.  The form of the question that often provokes healthy discussion is to ask: "How might we . . . .?"  He also describes the technique that has worked for many companies of replacing "brainstorming" with "question storming."

His final challenge which he poses in the final chapter of the book, is to ask how each individual might frame "a more beautiful question" that frames and sparks inquiry and endeavors to provide meaning and purpose for the rest of one's life.  Inspiring!



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