Questions can be far more important than the answer.


By Chris Gandy

Having sat through many many board meetings in cause-based organisations I am convinced that very few board members appreciate the immense power they have to create lasting change by simply asking some seemingly innocuous questions.

Recognition of the power of questions goes way back. Socrates taught by asking questions. Einstein once said:

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes”

Even the famous McDonalds chain is said to have resulted from Ray Kroc asking:

“Where can I get a good hamburger on the road?

We need to remember though that questions are two-edged swords.

In a board setting questions can encourage and invite what is possible – or they can throttle conversation in an instant. We have all regrettably witnessed the effect on a stimulating debate a question such as “So when is lunch?” can have.

Questions can inspire and bring out the best in everyone in the meeting, or they can set an entire roomful of people’s teeth on edge.

Inspiration invoking questions are usually about blue sky or unbridled potential and can lead to some wonderfully creative outcomes. So if you are in a meeting that is going nowhere or worse is becoming more negative by the minute throw questions like these into the mix and see what happens:

? What would become possible if we did this?

?Why is that important?

? What would it take for this bigger possibility to become a reality?

? What if the assumptions turn out to be false?

? Whats the very worst that can happen if we do this?

? What would that worst outcome make possible?

We dare you to try a line of questioning like this at your next meeting.

And finally to those board members that at times feel a bit overwhelmed and at times a little inferior by the verbose grandstanders  in your board meetings, we leave you this quote from Neil Postman

“All our knowledge results from questions, which is another way of saying that questioning is our most important intellectual tool”

About the author: Chris Gandy MAPS is a Director of Cause and Effective (,  a group dedicated to assisting cause-based organisations make and even greater impact via coaching and consultation.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s