We were all born as questions. The old saying that ‘children enter school as question marks and leave as full stops’ (‘periods’ on one side of the water), attributed to Neil Postman [1931-2003], applies also to adults entering a company, an organization. ‘The system’ (the tribal knowledge, the managerial logic, the culture) provides us with ready made answers in search of questions. We may enter and work as question marks but we may soon be forced to settle for lots of full stops.
‘Closure’ is often an imperative. Sometimes a strong push to settle, to have an answer, to come off the fence, to say or do. Decisiveness is good, lack of it is bad, so the managerial book of expectations says. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with ‘closure’ other than it should be critical, and that often it is provided at any cost, for the sake of it.
If we are questions in search of answers, instead of a repertoire of answers ready to react to a question, and behave as such, then curiosity and inquiry will flourish. They are contagious. If you want a curious environment, hire curious people. Curious people ask questions, lots of them. They may be a bit of nuisance in managerial terms, but it pays off.
The late Irish poet, philosopher and master of Celtic Spirituality, John O’Donohue, said ‘In creating us, God asked us a question’. Whether you interpret this in a religious way or not, it means you are born ‘as a question’: how you’ll live your life, what you’ll leave behind etc. Given answers too soon may kill the journey. Our creativity, inquisitiveness, curiosity, requires that we continue that journey generating more questions rather than often providing answers.
To remain as a good question, we should not be so fast as to find answers so soon.
An inquisitive, curious, and restless organization in which the quest for the truth is revered, and critical thinking is the collective fuel, is the fertile ground for innovation and creation. That ‘Creatio Continua’ (continuous creation) of Christian theology, perhaps in a humble lower case, can come up from any corner of the work floor, any workstation, any flipchart and meeting room.
Ah, the questions! How annoying they are sometimes. The best question is the one that has no answer.
The pictorial representation of leadership should be a question mark.
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