Asking the right questions vs. giving the right answer

I love when people answer a question with an inquisitive question. For the most part, I think it reflects on the person’s curiosity and ability to think critically.

Of course, there are straightforward questions where this isn’t applicable.

There’s no arguing “What’s 2+2?” The answer is 4.

“What is the most populous country on Earth?” has only one correct answer — China.

But even a simple question like “What color is the sky?” needs some analysis. You could ask:

  • What’s the weather like?
  • Are there clouds in the sky?
  • Is there fog rolling in?
  • Is it day or night?
  • Etc.

That’s kind of a lame example, but you get my point.

Many questions are situational, and answering these questions takes thinking through the scenario and analyzing the consequences of actions.

That’s why consulting firms use the case interview to assess their job candidates. The ability of candidates to analyze the problem, ask pertinent questions, and devise a solution in real time are extremely valuable skills.

This is similar in the startup world as well.

Of course, the ability to ask insightful questions is valuable for startup founders to determine the best candidate for the job.

But it’s also very important in assessing advisors, investors, partners, and others.

These people should be asking good questions to better understand your customers, market, business model, and other issues your business is facing.

Whenever I am asked questions by startup founders and entrepreneurs, whether the person is someone who is just launching their company at a Startup Weekend event or is the founder of the startup I’m advising, I always try to take a step back, think about what I’m being asked, and devise relevant follow-up questions to truly understand the issue at hand so I can add as much value as possible.

Some find it annoying when people answer a question with a question. I find that its usually the start of an interesting conversation with someone smart and intellectually curious.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please recommend this article by clicking that little heart below. Then sign up for my email list at mikewchan.com and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at GoandGrowPodcast.com!

This is day 36 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.