The third element of “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking” by Drs. Burger and Starbird is to ask questions. The title of this chapter is “Creating Questions Out of Thin Air” with the subtitle, “Be Your Own Socrates.” Remember that Socrates was the Ancient Greek Philosopher who developed the Socratic Method of teaching which centered on asking questions. Creating questions enlivens our curiosity. It transforms us from being passive into active listeners. Listening is not enough. If we are constantly engaged in asking ourselves questions about what we are hearing. we will find that even boring lectures become a bit more interesting because much of the interest will come from what we are generating rather than what the lecturer is offering.
We need to formulate questions properly and assess whether we are asking the real question. For example, the question “How can I be successful?” is vague and unanswerable. First we need to ask what success means to us and then ask questions that lead to action. Effective questions will lead us to explore and develop core habits, and skills that will make a difference. Effective questions lead to action and are not vague. The right questions clarify our understanding and focus our attention on features that matter.
We should not overlook asking meta questions. Asking questions about an assignment or project before beginning working earnest should lead to a stronger final project. These are questions such as “What’s the Goal of this task?” and “What benefits flow from this task?” Meta questions often save time because they focus our attention on he core issues and allows the clearing up the initial confusion that usually is present at the start of any project or task.
The art of creating questions and active listening are skills that need to be fostered.
Here is the final paragraph of the chapter with some minor changes. “Constantly thinking of questions is a mind-set with tremendous impact. We become more alive and curious, because we are actively engaged while we are listening and living. We become more open to ideas, because we are constantly discovering places where are assumptions are exposed. We take more effective action because we clarify what needed too be done. We should be our own Socrates.
Although I have done my best, I have not done justice to the original. So I again urge you to read the original document.