Beautiful Questions: An Interview with Warren Berger

There is no better way to start a conference than with a set of great questions. Warren Berger is giving the opening keynote on “The Power of Beautiful Questions” at the E-Learn conference in New Orleans on the evening of November 4. Berger focuses on how asking the right questions can help us to be more curious and open to new ideas and viewpoints, while also helping us to innovate in the workplace. During the ‘fireside chat’, conference attendees have a chance to talk to the bestselling author about his writing and research. Readers of AACE Review get a sneak peek of his talk in this interview. Check out the website ‘A More Beautiful Question’ for further information on Warren Berger’s books and talks.

What do you see as some of the critical components of asking the right questions? What are some of the implications of asking good questions for educators and students? 

Asking questions is critical to good decision-making, better relationships with other people, and it has a direct connection to innovation and creativity. That’s why it’s so important for companies to encourage more questioning by employees, and educators to encourage more questioning by students. Students have been conditioned to memorize answers, in order to be successful in school. We need to encourage them to be more curious, more willing to explore new ideas, to wonder about things. And then to express that curiosity and wonder by asking questions.

What have you learned from your visits to schools? 

I’ve learned that students are often reluctant to raise their hands and ask a question in class, because they seem to be worried that it will make them look bad, or they just don’t see the point in it. But I’ve also learned that this problem can be overcome if teachers do a good job of modeling the behavior of asking lots of questions, while also providing an environment where students feel it is safe and worthwhile to ask questions. There are lots of ways to do that, including exercises and activities that can make it easier and more rewarding for kids to ask questions.

What do you enjoy most about your current job?

There are two parts to my job–one is the quiet solitary part of being a writer, and the other is when I go out into the world and share ideas at conferences, schools, and companies. I really like the balance between those two–I don’t think I’d want to be doing either one all the time, but when I can go back and forth between writing and “speaking” (as a professional speaker), I feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds. The other thing I enjoy is the sense that I am on a ‘mission”–my mission is to spread the word about the importance of questioning and how to use this tool more effectively.

Have you attended AACE conferences in the past? What is your connection to this community? 

 I have not, my connection is that some people connected to the organization discovered my books on questioning and thought I’d be a good fit. I think the subject of questioning is a good fit with lots of industries and conferences, but particularly this one–because this is an industry/conference that is obviously trying to bring innovation to the way we educate and learn. So questioning is closely tied to both innovation and learning–therefore, very appropriate to this gathering.

What key insights do you hope the attendees will take away from your keynote?

That they can use questioning as a means of driving more innovative thinking in their own work. And that beyond that, asking more and better questions can probably benefit them in many areas of their lives–from clarify their own sense of purpose, to strengthening relationships with people around them.



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