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The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

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5.4. Good questions attract good ideas

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

Pablo Picasso

To dodge a bunch of unwanted college requirements, I studied logic theory and philosophy as part of my undergraduate degree. Apart from the many things I learned and forgot, one thing I learned and remembered was how to ask good questions. I had good instincts for logic, but as the only undergraduate in graduate-level logic theory classes, I was usually (OK, always) behind the rest of the group. I quickly learned that if I didn't ask carefully worded questions to peers or professors, I'd receive volumes of complex information that didn't help me at all. In fact, I've found that many engineers, doctors, and other intelligent experts tend to be very happy to share what they know, regardless of whether it's what I'm asking about. People just get lost in their own knowledge.

Carefully asked questions are one way to lead difficult conversations in useful directions. As an example, I had this recurring experience with logic professors that forced me to pay attention to how I asked questions. It would start with me asking something like, "Can you explain this one part of Gödel's incompleteness theorem?" The professor would answer, "Certainly. You see, all proof systems can be reduced to an essential set of characteristics defined by the core recursive primitive functions." I'd say, "Uh, OK. That's nice. But can you explain this one line here?" and I'd point to this tiny line ...

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