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Developing the Culture of Asking Questions

“We run the company by questions, not by answers,” Eric Schmidt, Chairman, Google

During my years in the UK, I marveled at the culture of asking questions by the typical British person. In my first few months, I usually felt uncomfortable when in a casual conversation with a work colleague or neighbour, I get asked all manner of questions about my name, where I was from, my interest, my education, my career, where I lived, and even my age.

Overtime, I began to take a different view to these questions and that allowed me see the benefits of asking questions. We will list some of them later but the focus on this post is to advocate this same culture in Nigeria, in our effort to build a developed nation.

It is true that we must not learn everything from developed nations but those things that enabled and sustained their development we must not only learn but apply to bring our nation to that level.

Before we discuss the benefits and what questions we should ask, I believe we should ask why, are we not asking questions?

Entitlement mindset: This is a mindset that says that we can create your own list of expectations and when they are not met, we are entitled to seek some form of retribution or compensation. It removes the need to place any responsibility for our actions upon ourselves, and reactively blame others for our plight in life.

This same mindset views the tragedies that befall our lives as some sort of unjust punishment from God, because we feel entitled to a good life.

Destination mindset: This mindset says ‘we have arrived’ when we’ve built a mansion in Lagos, Abuja, London, Dubai and a Country home in our village; bought a few top of the range jeeps; sent our kids to study & live abroad; and acquired top of range electronics, gadgets, designer clothes & accessories. Once we’ve arrived, we no longer have anything to worry about.

We’ve pursued these things and not bothered to ask questions about the society we would live in to enjoy this ‘destination’.

Organised society mindset: This mindset is the era of organised shopping, organised domestication, organised religion, organised education, organised marriage, organised working hours & location, in summary an organised way of life (a set pattern that everyone follows).

It destroys innovation, discourages individuality and creates citizens with lazy brains. If you ask a question, you get shut down with a chorus “this is how we’ve been doing it”. In fact, it is so organised that the culture of asking questions in schools and even as an adult is highly discouraged.

With these sorts of mindsets, we do not see any value in asking questions and with this culture we most certainly will remain an underdeveloped nation.

So then, what questions should we ask?

About Ourselves: To develop a growth mindset that provides a great platform for our continuous personal development, we need to ask regular questions about how we think and what we must do to break down our limiting or fixed mindset.

We must also ask questions about our values and how we would defend them, our dreams & desires for our future, that of our families, community and our nation. This is the essential starting point for the questioning culture because the development of a person is the first step in nation-building

Our Work or Business: We must ask ourselves questions regularly about what we do for a living (work or business), why we do it, how we do it and what difference it is making to our nation. These questions provide a great platform for our professional development.

Our Community & Nation: It is also required that we ask questions about the community we live in and that which we come from (if they are separate). We must also ask questions about what we can do on our own, and also what we can do with others.

To accelerate our national development, we must ask questions about the government (legislature, executive and judiciary at the 3 levels). We must ask questions about our security agencies, education, healthcare, economy, infrastructure, etc. We must also ask questions about what would be the challenges of the next 30-50 years because even if we may not be around, the responsibility for shaping the future belongs to us who live in the present.

Again, the questioning of ourselves looks inwards and that is an essential starting point. The questioning of our work or business & our community and nation looks at our contribution to our national development. Both sets of questioning are essential and must be regular.

What are the benefits of asking questions?

Destroys wrong mindsets

Provides information, knowledge & aids memory

Fosters critical thinking skills

Empowers innovation, creativity & the spirit of excellence

Enables development through improvement

Encourages individuality

Helps uncover blind spots and the unknown

Encourages evaluation

In summary, an answer by definition is a response to a question asked. To generate the answers or solutions to our numerous challenges as a nation, we must develop a culture of asking questions, and the right ones for that matter.

So, what questions are you regularly asking about you, your work/business and your nation Nigeria? What will you do with the answers you get? The ball is in our court.

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