What Makes a Good Question?

In Wired Founder Kevin Kelly’s recently published book, The Inevitable, the author makes a fascinating claim about the nature of questions and answers. Kelly writes that, because search engines like Google have made it simple to answer almost any question with a few keystrokes, as we careen into the future, questions will be much more valuable than answers.

“So at the end of the day, a world of supersmart ubiquitous answers encourages a quest for the perfect question. What makes a perfect question? Ironically, the best questions are not questions that lead to answers, because answers are on their way to becoming cheap and plentiful. A good question is worth a million good answers.” — Kevin Kelly, from “The Inevitable”

Kelly goes on to share a thought provoking list of conditions that result in a good question…

“A good question is not concerned with a correct answer.
A good question cannot be answered immediately.
A good question challenges existing answers.
A good question is one you badly want answered once you hear it, but had no inkling you cared before it was asked.
A good question creates a new territory of thinking.
A good question reframes its own answers.
A good question is the seed of innovation in science, technology, art, politics, and business.
A good question is a probe, a what-if scenario.
A good question skirts on the edge of what is known and what is not known, nether silly nor obvious.
A good question cannot be predicted.
A good question will be the sign of an educated mind.
A good question is one that generates many other good questions.
A good question may be the last job a machine will learn to do.
A good questions is what humans are for.” — from “The Inevitable”

Here’s a set of questions I thought up that align with the conditions above:

  • If you keep doing what you’re doing, what will it lead to?
  • What’s actually important?
  • Who does this benefit?
  • Who does this harm?
  • What do we REALLY want?
  • What is the next, most obvious step you can take to move you towards your goal?
  • How can I be of service here?

If you’d like to add to the list, leave a post in the comments down below.


I explore this question: How can we use our minds, so that they don’t use us? If you found this post engaging, inspiring or valuable, you can spread that goodness by clicking the green heart below!