Better Questions Pushing beyond the Known

Let's talk about the answers to my questions, both your answers and the answers I get in my workshops. Of course, for the first question about what I am wearing, you knew the answer. Black suit. Neutral shirt. And so on. The known. However, when you had to wonder, when you had to engage your imagination, that was a different story.

To the second question, "What kind of socks might I be wearing?" in my workshops the first answer I usually hear is "black socks." Big surprise. Black suit, black shoes, black socks. Wow! I also often hear wool or Gold Toe. Sometimes I hear designs — argyle, paisley, polka dots, stripes.

If I haven't heard designs and people are kind of stifled, then I ask the third question, "What's the design on my socks?" If they weren't mentioned already, I tend to hear the usual suspects. Argyle. Paisley. Stripes. Polka dots.

When I ask, "What's an unusual design you wouldn't expect to find on socks?" I often hear topical things. Around Christmastime, I hear "Christmas trees," "Santa Claus." Around World Series time I hear "baseballs," "Babe Ruth." During the O.J. Simpson trial, I heard "Nicole's blood" (yuck!). I often hear topical things and sometimes I hear things like "fish," "flowers," "race cars." These are unusual designs.

Finally, I ask the question, "What's a highly unusual design you would never, ever expect to find on socks?" Typically, that's when people start using their imaginations and coming up with things that they haven't seen or are unlikely to see. They push it out: flying elephants . . . neckties on socks . . . Bela Lugosi in a swimsuit.

Yes, the imagination often comes up with some pretty amazing possibilities when pushed. Again, the exercise illustrates a thinking tool. A creative thinking tool. A Do-It-Yourself Lobotomy tool called Ask a Better Question.

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