President’s Perspective: Ask Better Questions

Oct 13, 2023

“Ask better questions.”

I have used this phrase many times with my family members. While they are simply looking to make conversation, I challenge them to ask better questions in order to get better answers. Sometimes this applies to simple salutations, but more often it applies to topics of interest or recounting an experience. “How did it go?” vs. “On a scale of 1 to 10, tell me how you thought it went and why?” Better questions make the conversation more interesting, leads to a richer exchange, and typically creates a deeper level of understanding and insight.

I am more drawn in by people who show a genuine curiosity than those who ask superficial questions and expect something other than a superficial response. Very often I will respond in kind with an answer befitting the quality of the question.

My work and volunteer roles require me to ask good questions to be effective. The inquiries may start at a 101 level but quickly escalate to a 401 level to get to the significant part at hand, whatever that matter is. This leads to finding pathways and solutions that lead to options and success. In most cases, the answers are the easy part, the questions and their quality are the challenge to make the variables clear and the answers distinguishable.

What really highlighted the importance of better questions for me was my recent experimentation with AI and ChatGPT. I have only played with it a bit, but it is clear to me that the quality of the questions lead directly to the quality of the output. In my experience, unlike a typical search engine where you put in a few key words and migrate your way through a few cycles to a set of practical solutions, this is far more surgical. It is a rifle approach rather than a shotgun approach. The better the question, the better the answer. It is that simple.

I have often believed in this statement, and my encouragement to my family (while not always greeted with enthusiasm) really hits home here. I need to create better questions to get better answers now more than ever in personal, professional, and now AI interactions.

Mike Espeset