Expert discussion forums: Asking the right questions to get the most useful answers

05 November 2015 -


Everyone, sometimes, has a fiendishly complex question to answer, which no-one anywhere seems to have the answer for. But they do, oh yes they do…

Professional Manager

In the working world, there are three types of questions. David Griffiths, founder of management consultancy K3Cubed, has developed a framework for asking the ones that will yield the most useful answers:

First, those for which there can only be one answer, for example: “What’s the safest way to turn off a nuclear power plant?” Cloud-based platforms (ie, search engines) are great for answering these.

The second type of question is more complex. These yield multiple answers, none of which are definitive, and to answer them satisfactorily you need to talk to actual people, which is where the likes of AskReddit and Quora are handy. For example: “What are the best team-building exercises to motivate my employees?” or “How can I help my staff learn a foreign language?”

Take Quora: questions are asked, answered, edited and organised by its community of users, who then “upvote” their favourite answers, thus giving you an instant sense of where the most robust solutions to your problem might lie. It’s the kind of collaborative problem-solving platform that could, in years to come, be applied to whole swathes of life.

Imagine Quora for medical diagnosis, a Quora that allowed MPs to draw on other constituency experiences when answering constituents’ questions, Quora for the law…

The possibilities are endless, and intriguing.

Then there are ‘wicked problems’. These are much more hypothetical and require multiple experts to come together or ‘swarm’ around the complex conundrum. An example might be: ‘What will the mobile phone industry look like in 10 years time?’

To answer these properly, you need a group of experts. No single person can provide an irrefutable answer, and each person could have a different theory. Swarming allows contributors to collaborate (from wherever they are) on their responses, to create a more substantial conclusion. Expert Witness is a good example, as it allows you to contact multiple industry experts at once.

This is an updated article originally published in the Autumn issue of Professional Manager magazine

David Griffiths is founder of K3Cubed

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