The Importance of Asking Questions

Questioning is the art of learning. Learning to ask important questions is the best evidence of understanding there is, far surpassing the temporary endorphins of a correct “answer.”

Terry Heick

Questions Lead to Answers

As SQL Server consultants, our success is highly dependent on asking the right questions. Naturally, our clients give us important details about their database needs and the issues they are facing. That’s a good start, but it’s usually not enough.

To resolve problems, we ask more questions — helping us get past symptoms, suspicions, and perceptions to really discover the core issue. With our Health Check service we can even, in a way, interrogate systems to uncover more answers and further pinpoint problems. Guess you could say we’re like database detectives.

In the absence of questions, and attendant answers, we have to work off assumptions, and that’s a bad way to run a business. Consider these philosophical gems:

“The right question is already half the solution to a problem.” — Carl Jung

“If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” — W. Edwards Deming

“The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the (right) answer.” — Thomas J. Watson

“If I had an hour to solve a problem…I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper questions to ask, for once I know the proper question, I can solve the problem in less than five minutes.” — Albert Einstein

Quite often, we don’t ask questions, or enough questions, because our pride gets in the way. We don’t want to appear foolish or less expert than our peers, so we hold our peace and remain in our ignorance. Chances are, though, if you — with your training and experience and knowledge — are questioning something, your peers likely are too. All our lives we’ve been taught there is no such thing as a dumb question. Sometimes we even soften any perception of a question by saying, “Here’s a dumb question for you….” If that’s what it takes for you to ask a question, then do it!

The Stupidest Person in the Room

If everyone assumes A, B, and C have been explored, and D, E, and F have been ruled out, but in reality everyone spent so much time on A-E and forgot about F, not asking about F is doing yourself and others a disservice. It’s good to have someone around who always asks the obvious questions, because sometimes they’re so obvious they don’t get asked, and the obvious answers aren’t found. In this brief video, Simon Sinek — who isn’t stupid by any stretch — talks about aiming to be the stupidest person in the room and asking questions until he understands. After watching, you’ll probably feel more comfortable asking more questions too.

Everyone works better with more information, and as SQL Server consultants we’re proud to be part of an industry that generously shares knowledge. Just ask. That ideal helped inspire the focus of our unique July webinar, which combines a SQL Server Q&A session with a legit backyard BBQ involving smoked meats. Whatever your pressing database or meat smoking question, we’re ready to answer.

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