Sometimes asking the right questions may be more important that having the right answers

Three Questions That Can Change Your Life, Marriage and Ministry.

It’s not too often that I pick up an inflight magazine when on a trip, but I did a while ago.I was on a Southwest flight and an article written by Warren Berger caught my attention. Warren is the author of  “A More Beautiful Question.”  The article was titled,“Chasing Beautiful Questions.” Warren had two statements that intrigued me:

  1. What if you found that creative genius does not lie in knowing all of the answers?
  2. Innovators often go through three questions, repeating the cycle many times, before getting a brilliant answer.

What are the three questions?


For a number of years I have been thinking that one of the secrets to good leadership (especially empowering leadership) is not always in having the right answers but in asking the right questions.

The article tells the story of Van Phillips who lost a leg in a boating accident in 1976 and was very unhappy with the options available at the time for a prosthetic.

At just 21 Phillips was very athletic and was not able to do much with the standard prosthetic. He was told that he just needed to accept what was and to learn to live with it. Instead he began to ask the three questions above that eventually led him to invent the “Flex-Foot Limb” which paved the way for the later development of the famous “Cheetah” blade and revolutionized prosthetics.

Warren Berger uses the example of Van Phillips to challenge all of us to think outside the box and not accept the status quo.

The application in the realm of leadership and ministry are endless:

Why does this situation exist?

Why is this constantly a problem for us?

Why does our team seem to struggle so much with_________?

Why are things not happening the way we had planned or expected with this new emphasis we began six months ago?

What if we tried _______instead of ______, which we have always done, and done so for years without ever changing it.

What if we looked at this situation from a totally different perspective?

What if we had somebody outside our organization take a look at this?

What if we got some ideas from a totally unrelated field?

How would we go about starting to _______?

How can we do this, and make it even better?

How could we do this with the current team we already have?

How can we do this faster and cheaper?

Some of the most amazing discoveries and inventions began by asking these same three questions and not accepting what was or what has always been.

The well-known quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” has been attributed by some to German born Physicist Albert Einstein.  The fact is that if we continue to do things the way we have always done them,  we will more than likely continue to get the same results we have alwyas gotten.

If Van Phillips hadn’t challenged the current way of thinking about prosthetics, every athletic person who lost a leg would not be able to run, jump and compete as they do today. According to Warren, Phillips is still asking more questions:

  1. “Why does the foot have to cost so much to make?”
  2. “What if it could be made so that land-mine victims in poorer nations could afford it?”
  3. “How might I tweak the design to allow for this, without compromising performance?”

While on the trip this weekend (in Kansas City) I began to apply these three questions while brainstorming church planting in India with two friends who live and minister there and were in the states for some meetings.

What kind of roadblocks and barriers are you currently facing and dealing with and how might these three questions change the way you think about life, career, work and family?