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The 5 essential questions

Bill Kelly, my old boss at Treo Solutions, is one of the top minds in the country when it comes to healthcare design, delivery and economics.

It’s one of the reasons 3M Healthcare Information Systems decided to acquire Treo a few years ago.

Though Bill was (and still is) often the smartest guy in the room, he never acted it. And he never let anyone else act that way either.

He had a habit of saying “I’m glad we think we have the right answers, but are we asking the right questions?” That constant curiosity set the tone and pace at Treo and we all got better because of it.

Cultivating the art of asking good questions may very well be the sleeper secret to success and happiness.

That’s the claim by James Ryan, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who delivered a wildly popular commencement address last year on the subject titled “Good Questions.”

Ryan says there are five truly essential questions that we should regularly ask ourselves and others:

“Wait, what?”
This is an effective way of asking for clarification, which is crucial to understanding. “Wait” is also a good reminder to slow down.

“I wonder why/if…?”
Asking “I wonder why” is the way to remain curious about the world, and asking “I wonder if” is the way to start thinking about how you might improve the world.

“Couldn’t we at least…?”
This question helps you get unstuck and moving forward. It’s a way to get started even if you don’t know where you’ll end up.

“How can I help?”
This offer is at the base of all good relationships. “How” is a humble way to ask for direction and recognize that others are experts in their own lives.

“What truly matters?”
This question gets to the heart of life. This forces you to catalog your core values and convictions.

Of course, these aren’t the only questions to ask. But they are good ones to keep handy to ensure understanding, move past old and easy answers, open up new possibilities, and remain focused on what’s genuinely important.

Have a great week.

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