Many Silicon Valley companies are now unusually encouraging almost child-like questioning sessions as the new answers to innovation and anticipating future trends.
This habit of questioning is inherently natural among kids, who, based on studies, ask an average of 200 to 300 questions a day out of their innate curiosity to discover new things.
Bringing back this child-like inquisitiveness is essentially what ex-journalist Warren Berger is saying, author of The Book of Beautiful Questions: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead and A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.
Kids ask ridiculous questions, but this is how they learn, discover and have fun. After all, the word “school” traces its roots to “leisure” or “having fun.” Sadly, by the time they reach high school, they lose this habit of asking questions.
Why? It’s because they are made to believe there are already answers to questions and problems. They just have to memorize these and conform to norms and conventions. Moreover, they are rewarded with honors and incentives if they get these answers right.
Adults and society have predetermined answers to anything and expect the young to learn these by memory and worse, without question or critical thinking. But this is how they can get their answers right.
Lamentably, this is also how they get “educated” increasingly deeper into ironic “mis-education.” They develop cognitive biases, and reinforce their ethnocentric cultural bigotry, social parochialism and myopic perspectives, among others. Surprisingly, this is what society calls the ready answers, or the “Power of Knowledge,” which are actually old information.
Even past progressive thinkers or experts from the so-called ivory tower of the academe fall prey to the tendency to rest on their laurels as they stick to theories that worked in the past, not knowing these may no longer be relevant nor hold true in the future.
Some, even plunge into ironic puerile obscurantism as they succumb to the pitfalls of extreme intellectual reductionism and empiricism – not grounded on reality, whereby they can figuratively count the trees but cannot see the forest; or to exaggerate, they can come up with sophisticated statistical methodologies as they belabor counting legs of cattle, then dividing these by four to get an accurate figure but may commonsensically be stupid.
Even Einstein, who claims “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” advises one must never stop questioning and exploring new hypotheses, or even asking old questions as answers change with changing conditions. Interestingly, Einstein’s brilliant “eureka” moments happened while he was “fiddling,” a synonym for playing, while literally playing his violin.
It helps to be a critical skeptic in order to see all sides in a dialectical process of learning the Truth. But when one brushes off anything new, including what mainstream Establishment brands as hearsay or “conspiracy theory”, how would we know these are seeds of emergent Truth?
Will this not make us also slip into the unwitting folly and hubris of the academe or the ivory tower? And will this not make us no different from the people we charge condescendingly as having little knowledge or myopic understanding, only because we have shut off ourselves from other views of the real world and confined ourselves to what we believe are the more superior bastion of knowledge – the Four Walls of the classroom; or get drowned in the perspectives and cognitive biases of knowledgeable book authors, believing they are more right than commoners.
My experience and perspective on this drastically changed when an illiterate old-man chieftain of the Higaonon tribe in Mindanao once told me decades back in their language, “If you are in a hurry, slow down.” This struck me like a lightning bolt as being a profound metaphor of wisdom coming from somebody illiterate.
This is no different from the folly of when the Vatican Church charged Galileo as a heretic and put him under house arrest for life for saying the Earth revolves around the Sun. It took the Vatican 600 years to apologize for this blunder.
It is advisable to be a skeptic and question everything that comes our way or anything external to our beliefs, but it also pays to listen to other views, and even be skeptical of our own views, lest they have become outdated. This way one gets a better sense of the world and of oneself, whether right or wrong, at a certain point in time vis-a-vis others.
Michael M. Alunan is a former journalist now engaged in transport cooperative organizing to empower modernizing transport groups. He also provides advice on developing marketing programs and supplemental food livelihood ventures.
Also published in Manila Times.