Questioneering ?

Questioneering : the skill of asking incisive questions.

I have read and heard many anecdotes from the lives of great men and women and they have had a very powerful impact in shaping my mindset and worldview. One such story is about Isidor Isaac Rabi, the Physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in the year 1944 for his discovery of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Rabi was once asked what made him choose  a career in Science. His reply surprised everyone. He said “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: So? Did you learn anything today? But not my mother. “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference — asking good questions — made me become a scientist.”

The essayist Robert Louis Stevenson in his well known but short 2 page essay ‘ El Dorado’ ( ) says “ Desire and curiosity are the two eyes through which he sees the world in the most enchanted colours: it is they that make women beautiful or fossils interesting: and the man may squander his estate and come to beggary, but if he keeps these two amulets he is still rich in the possibilities of pleasure.” The essay closes beautifully with “for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”

Please watch this 18 minute video on why you should question everything?

Asking questions to make sense of the world is natural to us as children, until social conformity requires us to stop asking questions, especially from those in authority. It seems that children aged about 4 years ask the most number of questions. On average, kids under four ask an average of 73 questions per day, some over a grueling 14-hour stretch. But there was an instance of a 3 year old girl who asked her mother about 400 questions in a day. 

Read More: Ever Wonder How Many Questions Your Kids Ask Every Day? |

We need to overcome the hesitation in asking questions and learn to ask better questions by appreciating the attributes of a good question. 

It may come as a surprise to many that the Indian Constitution is perhaps the only one where the citizens have been cast a duty to ask questions. 


It shall be the duty of every citizen of India-

(h) To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;

Developing the spirit of enquiry and a Scientific temper begin with asking questions. That is why I began this piece on Questioneering ( the skill of asking incisive questions) with the story of Rabi’s mother checking whether he had asked a good question at School. 

In a world where all the answers are known, or can be easily obtained, value is created by understanding what questions to ask. The single biggest mistake that many leaders are making in today’s disruptive environment is executing the right answers to the wrong questions. Questioneering introduces a decision making model to enable citizens of  the digital age to discover the high-value questions and execute the high-value answers.

Clayton Christensen says that having a questioning mind is a key and fundamental attribute of an Innovator. Questioneering provides a new way of approaching complex problems and reaching break through innovation.

Questions are also an important mode of social interaction. Though ‘how are you is a greeting, not a question’, there are a number of questions that can be used to start a conversation with almost any person. Right now perhaps the most common conversation starter is the coronavirus. Here are a few examples of questions that may be good conversation starters, whether in person or in remote mode.

1: What are you most grateful for, right now, in this moment?

2: Working on any exciting personal projects lately? 

3: What’s working well for you right now?

4: what do you do to get rid of stress?

5: What shows, podcasts, blogs or WhatsApp courses are you watching/pursuing right now?

6: What would be your perfect weekend?

7: What are you looking forward to in the future?

Sometimes the answers to questions may also change with time.

There is  a delightful story about Albert Einstein. The story is that one year when he was teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, it was time to set examinations. When Einstein handed over the exam papers to his teaching assistant, the assistant noted that it was the same paper that Einstein had set for that class the year before. The assistant queried the master, “Isn’t this the same exam you gave this class last year?”. “Yes, yes it is.” replied Einstein. Emboldened, the assistant asked, “But how can you give the same exam to this class two years in a row?” “Becuase,” Einstein replied, “the answers have changed”.

And Veblen observed that the outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where only one grew before.

Asking questions has been listed at number 3 of 8 habits of quiet winners:

They ask more questions than they give answers to.

Giving answers is boring to them. They prefer to ask questions and see where the conversation takes them. They see questions as a gateway to more ideas. And ideas have the potential to bring them closer to the next quiet win.

Nobody has all the answers. You don’t learn by giving answers. Quiet winners succeed by asking more questions than everybody else

Here is a link to a very interesting and stimulating article in the New Scientist on the biggest questions ever asked :

Descartes’s statement “ cogito ergo sum” became a fundamental element of Western Philosophy.  “Thinking is just the process of asking and answering questions.”


About mmpant

Prof. M.M.Pant has a Ph.D in Computational Physics, along with a Professional Law Degree, and has been a practitioner in the fields of Law, IT enabled education and IT implementation. Drawing upon his experience in world class international institutions and having taught in various modes of Face-to-Face, Distance Learning and Technology Enhanced Training, Prof. Pant is now exploring the nature of institutions which will be successors to the IITs, which represented the 1960s, IIMs, which represented the 1970 and Open Universities which were the rage of 1980s & 90s. He believes that the convergence between various media and technologies would fundamentally alter the way learning would be created, packaged, and delivered to learners. His current activities are all directed toward actual implementation of these new age educational initiatives that transform education in the post Internet post WTO era.. Prof. Pant, has been a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and has been on the faculty of IIT – Kanpur (the premier Engineering institution in India), MLNR Engineering College and Faculty & Visiting Professor - University of Western Ontario-Canada. He has been visiting scientist to research centers in Italy, England, Germany & Sweden and has delivered international lectures with about 80 papers published. During his association of almost 15 years with the IGNOU, Prof. Pant has served as the Director Computing and has been the Member of All Bodies (i.e. School boards, Academic council, Planning board, Finance committee and the Board of management). With his interest in Law, backed with practice of Law in a High Court, and his basic training in Science and IT, Prof. Pant has been particularly interested in the Cyber Law, Patent & trade mark issues, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues etc. and has been involved with many activities, conferences on “Law & IT” Prof. Pant is presently; • Advisor to Media Lab Asia - Chairman of working group on ICT for Education, chairman of PRSG handling projects on ICT for education. • Lead Consultant for an ADB funded project for ICT in Basic Education in Uzbekistan • Member of the drafting Group for India’s National Policy on ICT in education • Chairman of the group creating books for class 11 and 12 students on ‘Computers and Communication Technology’ appointed by the NCERT • Preparing a ‘Theme Paper” for the NCTE in the area of ICT and Teacher Training • Advisor and mentor to several leading Indian and Multi-national Companies in the area of education. Prof. Pant has in the recent past been ; • Member – Board of Management – I I T, Delhi for 6 years (two consecutive terms) • One-man committee to create the Project Report & Legislation for Delhi IT-enabled Open University • Advisor to the Delhi Government on Asian Network of Major Cities Project (ANMC-21) distance learning project in association with Tokyo Metropolitan Government. • Chairman Board of Studies, All India Management Association With his mission to create and implement new business opportunities in the area of e-learning & learning facilitation, Prof. Pant has promoted Planet EDU Pvt. Ltd., as its Founder & Chairman, along with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals from Education & Training, Operations, IT and Finance.
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