Especially In the Age of AI, Questions Are More Important Than Answers

Blue Question Marks with Bright White Question Marks

Twenty years ago, I addressed an audience made up largely of scientists, focusing on the point that questions are more important than answers. Perhaps this was an easy sell to this particular audience. After all, the scientific method itself starts with a hypothesis (a testable form of a question), then employs a research experiment to find an answer. Scientists, analysts, and the curious minded alike regularly ask questions to better understand the changing world around us. Now, in the age of artificial intelligence (AI), our world is changing like never before and our questions – our curiosity – are more powerful and valuable than ever before.

Our increasing need to ask the right questions will become our most effective tool to not only understand AI, but use it to work for us. Today we’re sharing our insight about how curiosity, the ability to ask effective questions, and the willingness to create safe spaces that spark curiosity can all work together to increase our positive impact in a changing world.

Analytical Curiosity
First and most importantly, we must start with an open and curious mind. Some of the most intelligent, successful, and influential people in the world are also often the most curious. When I ask the AI-powered tool ChatGPT, “Who are some of the most curious people in history?” it responds with a detailed list of a dozen very recognizable names, including Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, Jane Goodall, and Benjamin Franklin.

Yet the truth is, in today’s time, you don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner or inventor to positively impact our world. You just need to be someone who approaches the world with some analytical curiosity. This skill often revolves around taking things that are unclear or ambiguous, breaking them down into parts that can be understood, and then analyzing them. What themes have emerged? What are the trends, patterns, and outliers, etc.? What additional information might help?

“Sense-making” from an otherwise chaotic world is the process of channeling our curiosity into a structured analytical mindset. What is exciting now is that with AI, we may have an “expert” at our fingertips to help us, but are we curious enough to break things down to engage our AI expert to understand and make sense of our world? This responsibility increases now as we have more power to get answers!

An often-overlooked tip to get the most out of AI, is to “train” our chosen AI tools to generate the output we’re seeking. Before we even ask a question, it’s important to first tell it who and what we want it to be along with all the perspectives we want it to integrate into its response. The quality of the inputs we provide will always be key in attaining the quality of output that we want.

We have the unique opportunity right now to experiment with AI, and the key to that is training your tools, then asking high-quality questions, refining them, and repeating this process.

Superior Questions and Safe Spaces
Most of us don’t think too much about the types of questions we’re asking. Yet, the art of questioning is quite fascinating and complex – perhaps our expertise in facilitation makes us more aware of this.

To begin, we need to understand vivid questions – using phrasing to evoke an image prior to asking the question. This scene helps paint a picture to improve the quality of the response you might get. For example, “Think about a time you recently used ChatGPT. You sat down at your computer, brought up the browser, and started typing…What question did you ask it?” This context setting makes it easy to answer!

But AI is powerful, so now that we have some preliminary answers, we need to refine those answers through our use of probing questions. You can read more about the eight different types of reacting questions in our blog:  Market Research – Build a 3D Approach to Fully Understand Business Challenges.

Executives of the largest companies around the world are not expected to know it all, but instead be able to ask the right questions of those around them who do. Is using AI any different? It is exciting to think about how we can empower ourselves simply through growing our ability to ask questions.

Importantly, as we think about how we ask questions, we also need to think about the environments we are creating to support those curiosity-invoking conversations. To fully develop our curiosity, analytical mind, and strength of inquiry, we need to be intentional in creating forums that inspire and welcome questions and open discussion. This is true for both in-person and AI environments. We need to ensure the environment is safe before we engage.

This starts with establishing a culture of open-mindedness, innovation, and respect – a “safe space” for brainstorming and new ideas. Next, it’s imperative to bring in diverse people with diverse perspectives to challenge groupthink and improve engagement and problem-solving. In the realm of AI, this involves training the AI to bring in a wide array of perspectives. It also means understanding that biases exist in how answers might be generated, and being aware of the proper solutions to mitigate such biases. And finally, we must learn how to facilitate these types of situations in a way that invites questions and participation, so the appropriate solutions can emerge.

So, why is being analytically curious and asking better questions so important now? As we embark further into the age of AI and all that it offers, it is challenging us to be more curious, ask more questions, and know how to do that effectively. And, if we do, then we can maximize what AI can do for us – we can work more efficiently, expand our range of services, target our products and services to be more relevant, increase the amount of time we have to serve others and do it well. Ultimately, we can expand our positive impact on the world.

Now is not the time to back away from AI, it’s the time to be curious, better understand it, and embrace it. And the way we do that is simply by asking questions.