The Art of the Question

My reading list is full of books that in some ways have inspired me. I’ve had a unique privilege lately of reading a book written by my uncle. It is now on the reading list. The book title is “The Art of the Question: How to Expand Business Ideas, Strengthen Relationships, and Lead Any Conversation”. The title is a decent summary, but I’ll expand on that.

After reading through the book, I can categorize it as a “Business & Self Help” book. It is similar to books like “7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Covey” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People – Carnegie“. The big difference is the focus of this book is very narrow. It's all about questions. I use questions often in conversation, but I had not considered all the facets of question use. This book provides that valuable insight.

Building relationships is a thread that runs throughout the book. Relationships are important in personal life and business. Questions are one of the primary ways we show interests in the lives of others. The book cautions us to examine our motives when asking questions. It looks at personality differences as well. By building on common ground and true respect, often these differences can be set aside. Aspects of trust, emotions and the feeling of safety in relationships are also examined.

The book is targeted toward board rooms and business leaders. It zeros in on how to have productive meetings. Meetings where things don't dissolve into chaos. These tips are helpful for any sort of meeting. When reading I like to ask how does this lesson apply to me? Over the years as a software engineer, I've embraced Domain Driven Design (DDD). I've found that DDD tends to provide a greater value to the business than other techniques. Why? Because DDD focuses first on understanding the businesses core knowledge domain. The process of building great software for a business is all about understanding. Developers need to understand what to build and that is all about asking the right questions.

Asking the right questions helps arrive at the right solution. Breaking down a business domain to codify it, often results in lots of questions. I've worked on projects where the right questions bring to light process improvements. Process change is often cheaper and more impactful than improved software. The right line of questioning pulls out the non-technical commonsense solutions. These moments are delightful and a win for the business as software isn’t cheap to create and maintain.

Life itself is a process of continual improvement. We try things, we fail, we learn and hopefully we get better. Reading lets us build on the wisdom of others. It provides insight that otherwise may take many lifetimes to gain. It’s not always easy to self-reflect and target areas for improvement, but it’s always worthwhile. The Art of the Question, will give you a gentle nudge in that direction.