What is the importance of asking questions? Should curiosity be encouraged?
According to Francesca Gino’s book Rebel Talent, rebels constantly ask questions and gather information to better understand and connect with the people around them. Asking questions also helps them tap into their creativity and ingenuity.
Here’s how asking questions can help you grow as a person.
Why Being Inquisitive Is Important
Reason 1: Asking people questions helps build connections and leads to better performance at work.
- Gino says that when you show people that you care about their opinions and experiences, you gain their trust and admiration by making them feel supported; also, you build relationships that can help you overcome obstacles.
Gino’s research found that:
- Study participants had more favorable opinions of people who asked them more questions compared with people who asked them fewer.
- Study participants’ perceptions of other people’s competency increased when those people asked participants for advice.
- Inquisitive employees are often companies’ top performers.
Gino cites additional research that proves the importance of asking questions. Her research shows that people are more satisfied and feel more supported when others demonstrate curiosity about them by asking them questions.
Reason 2: Fostering a culture of inquiry and psychological safety leads to innovation.
Gino explains that when companies and leaders focus on building a work culture that centers on inquiry and psychological safety, employees feel comfortable asking questions, talking about challenges, and taking creative risks that improve their performance. Gino says leaders can foster a culture of inquiry, openness, and creativity by:
- Continually asking “Why?” and “What if?” as a model and cue for employees to do the same
- Acknowledging that they don’t have the answers to everything
- Developing policies and practices that help workers identify and tap into their interests
How to Ask Questions and Why You Should
Gino doesn’t specify how to ask these questions, but Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John outline steps you can take to improve the likelihood that you’ll have a meaningful exchange:
- Ask questions you know people will want to answer.
- Ask follow-up questions to get an understanding deeper than “yes” or ”no.”
- Ask open-ended questions to give people the space to elaborate.
- Start with less sensitive questions and build your way up.
- Ask questions in a conversational, not formal, tone.
According to Brooks and John, the importance of asking questions is that it can help you understand how and why people operate the way they do, which is the foundation for healthy work relationships that are vital to teams’ functioning. In addition to increasing performance, healthy relationships with coworkers can improve employee collaboration, morale, and retention rates.
How to Create a Culture of Trust
In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek argues that innovation blossoms when leaders create a safe space for workers to share their feelings, ask for help, discuss problems, and acknowledge mistakes. He says you can foster this culture by:
- Listening to your team’s concerns
- Encouraging communication both with and within your team
- Identifying your high- and low-trust team members
- Your high-trust member is the person who everyone on your team trusts.
- Your low-trust member is the person who everyone agrees is toxic and difficult to work with. (We might infer, based on unconstructive rebels’ unpopularity in the workplace, that leaders would likely identify these rebel workers as their “low-trust” team members.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full Rebel Talent summary:
- Why you should tap into your inner rule breaker
- A guide on how to break the rules constructively
- The three principles for becoming a rebel leader