A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas – Warren Berger

Here are my comments on the book:

Why should we start asking more “beautiful” questions? American journalist Warren Berger states that we should all be asking more “beautiful” questions as they’ll lead us to better quality answers; the better the question, the better the answer or solution. As humans, we all have a natural curiosity and an instinct to just ask questions. Unfortunately, that craving to make sense of everything around us has been tamed from early on in our lives. Take a second to think back to when you were a child and how you asked your parents or teachers all these questions on your mind. Most likely, after a while, they just dismissed your questions either because they didn’t know the answers or they just didn’t have the patience to deal with them. They probably then followed up by saying something along the lines of “Stop asking so many questions” rather than supporting you or helping you find the answers. As a result, this then taught you that questioning = trouble. When addressing his case of how asking questions is the key to success, Berger includes numerous examples of how some questions turned into real life solutions. Here are some points to the book:


1. One of the pieces to the equation of great innovation is execution. Everyone has  great ideas but rarely do we act upon them. A lot of this, I believe, is that the school system hasn’t prepared us to take real action. In my opinion, the majority of schools only really teach you to learn and memorize facts to help prepare you for tests that will eventually allow you to get into a higher education program. Rarely do they teach you how to act and execute upon that specific knowledge. They don’t make it very practical or useful for us to be able to do much with it. Got an idea? Execution is the name of the game. Just because you weren’t taught how to execute, there’s no reason why you can’t do so now. Just asking Why without taking any action may be a source of stimulating thought or conversation, but it is not likely to produce change. (Basic formula: Q (questioning) + A (action) = I (innovation). On the other hand, Q – A = P (philosophy). In observing how questioners tackle problems, I noticed a pattern in many of the stories:

• Person encounters a situation that is less than ideal; asks Why.

• Person begins to come up with ideas for possible improvements/solutions—with such ideas usually surfacing in the form of What If possibilities.

• Person takes one of those possibilities and tries to implement it or make it real; this mostly involves figuring out How.


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2. I once heard from T. Harv Eker, author of Secrets of The Millionaire Mind, state that if you want to become rich, you need to find a way to solve a problem that everyone has. Is there something in your life that’s bothering you? Chances are that you’re not the only one and there are people out there with the same problem. Make your mess your message; find a way to solve that problem. If a lot of people have the same problem as you and you solve it, chances are you’ll become rich. What if a car windshield could blink? In 1902 Alabama tourist Mary Anderson watched her New York streetcar driver struggling to see through his snow-covered windshield and wondered, Why doesn’t someone create a device to remove the snow? (The “someone,” of course, became Mary, designer of the first windshield wiper.) Sixty years later, Bob Kearns brought the windshield wiper into the modern era by posing a new question of his own. Dissatisfied with wipers that moved at one speed whether it was pouring or drizzling outside, Kearns inquired, Why can’t a wiper work more like my eyelid, blinking as much (or little) as needed? Kearns worked on his “intermittent wiper” idea in “his basement, eventually coming up with an elegantly simple three-component electronic sensing and timing device.Here’s another question that then turned into a real solution: Why can’t computers do more than compute? In the 1950s it wasn’t clear how computers could be used outside of mathematics. Conway Berners-Lee, a British mathematician who worked on the early commercial electronic computers, was fascinated by the question, Could computers be used to link information rather than simply compute numbers? The question was later refined by his son, software engineer Tim Berners-Lee. Overwhelmed by massive amounts of research data, Berners-Lee wondered if there were a way to combine the nascent Internet with linked hypertext documents to better find and share information. In 1989, he proposed the global hypertext project to be known as the World Wide Web. His prototype included the now familiar architecture of web browsers, HTML, HTTP, and URLs.


3. Don’t be afraid of asking questions to get to the root of the problem. Again this goes back to you having been conditioned to not ask questions and to just let things be the way they are. Keep asking “Why?” until you get to the root of the problem. The further you dig deep into it, the more you’ll understand why something is the way it is. The five whys methodology originated27 in Japan and is credited to Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries. For decades, the company used the practice of asking why five times in succession as a means of getting to the root of a particular manufacturing problem. When, for example, a faulty car part came out of a factory, asking why the first time would yield the most obvious answer—say, that someone on the assembly line had made a mistake. By then asking why that mistake occurred, an underlying cause might surface—such as insufficient training on a task. Asking why again, the company might discover the training program was underfunded; and asking why about that could lead back to fundamental company priorities about where money should be spent and what was most important in the end.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


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Check out the book here:

Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK

1 Comment

  1. […] things aren’t exactly as they appear to be and so digging deeper is a must. In the book A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger says that you should ask the question “Why” several times to dig deeper […]


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