Ask Questions and More Questions

Dr. Isidor Rabi was a famous American physicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1944 for discovering the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). He has said that the credit of his becoming a successful scientist should go to his mother. He has said

“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school ‘So? Did you learn anything today?’. But not my mother.  ‘Izzy’, she would say ‘did you ask a good question today?’. That difference – asking good questions – made me a scientist.”

We can see that young Isidor’s mind was conditioned by his mother. The boy found an incentive in asking questions in the classrooms. The incentive was that of making his mother happy. In the process, Isidor stated thinking more and consequently his natural intelligence got extra brilliance.

Asking good searching questions, particularly those arising out of curiosity, is an important ingredient of the learning process. Children are by nature intensely curious. By habit they ask questions based on their observations. Elders, particularly parents and teachers, should develop the habit of encouraging the kids to ask questions.

Asking good and right questions is a special trait of intelligent and smart persons. Selection committee members need to ask very good questions in order to rightly assess the suitability of candidates. Similarly, examiners in viva need to put deep searching questions to assess the real worth of the students seeking higher degrees. Successful people in the legal profession owe their success to their ability of putting clever questions at right times. This is applicable to managers in corporate bodies also. In this context it is worth recalling a quote of the Management Guru Peter Drucker, widely regarded as the Father of Modern Management.

“The most common mistake in management decisions is the emphasis on finding the 

right answer rather than the right question”.

The importance of questioning in innovative efforts can hardly be overemphasized. A research study carried out at the Harvard Business School has established that QUESTIONING is one of the five traits common to all successful innovators. The other four are OBSERVING, ASSOCIATING, NETWORKING and EXPERIMENTING. Of these, Observing and Questioning are the most important. Keen observation will result in searching questions to be put forth. The questions arise out of curiosity. From innovation point of view, there are three basic questions which will yield fruitful results. They are


The first two complement one another and are needed to explore alternative design options. The third question is concerned with removing the prevailing constraints or of introducing new ones. The three questions are in fact the first steps of successful innovations.

Finally I wish to add that one should feel free to ask whatever question that comes to mind. There is no room for any hesitation. People often tend to hesitate because of the fear that the question may be trivial or silly. I will end this article with a quote attributed to Charles Steinmetz a mathematician and electrical engineer considered to be the “Father of A.C. Transmission”.

“There are no foolish questions. 

One does not become a fool till he stops asking questions”

More By  :  Dr. KS Raghavan

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Comments on this Blog

Comment How correct!
Yes, asking questions 8s the first base of a scientist... without that no one would have become a scientist.
A curious child dismantles a toy car instead of playing.
As we grow we have inhibition to ask questions:).

26-Aug-2023 05:46 AM

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