Can new questions be the answer to all your old questions?

Whenever I rode in the car with my dad as a kid I was never allowed to simply listen to the radio.  Every song that came on would immediately be followed by the question, “Who is this?” from my dad.  If I got that one right, more trivia would follow until I didn’t know an answer or until the next song came on.  He would either tell me the answer I didn’t know to tell me to “look it up” when I got home for next time.

It was because of that game that I could recite the original 4 members of the Beatles (it’s not who you’re thinking), knew who the founding member of Creedence Clearwater Revival was, could tell you which band and instrument John Entwistle played and many other facts from memory by the age of 7.  I found out I could learn and retain more and more information the more questions I was asked.

Eventually I got to the point where I sought out the trivia and could not only answer my dad’s questions, but take them further and begin quizzing him until he didn’t know an answer or the next song came on.  We still play the game to this day, so I always have to be up on my music and movie trivia in case my dad shows up.

Question Everything

The principle behind my dad’s game applies to growing and leading in a chosen field more than I understood as a child, but I’m slowly catching on.  By instilling a love of fact and knowledge in me, my dad effectively made me hungry to always be learning and retaining information.  I’m always searching out questions to ask and answer because eventually I’ll get to where I can draw those questions out further and start asking my own.

That’s what you should be doing in your field.  Don’t be afraid to always be asking and answering questions.  By asking questions you show you are yearning for information and by answering them you prove that the answers you find aren’t going to waste.  Here are some great places to start looking for questions to ask and answer:

  • LinkedIn Answers – Probably the most obvious choice, so I’ll start with it.  LinkedIn Answers not only gives you the ability to search out questions to answer, but also allows users to rate the answers so you can get a sense of which ones are preferred.  There are always new and deep questions floating around in here.  I’d suggest spending at least 10-15 minutes every morning browsing through to see what you can learn and who you can help.
  • Twitter Search – Another pretty obvious choice, but you can search out particular terms and words to see who is asking what on Twitter.  One neat thing you can do is set them up to synch into your Google Reader to keep tabs on a question your firm may be monitoring.
  • Quora – One of the newest and shiniest objects in the social space, Quora is kind of like a question-based wikipedia.  While Quora is still coming into it’s own, Chris Brogan stumbled onto a way that it could become increasingly helpful to it’s users.  Also, what if Quora introduced a ranking system that allowed “Top Answerers” or “Top Questioners” to be brought to the surface.  Almost like community-placed sages?
  • Forums – There are still places online like that you can both search and answer questions that interest you.  Go on your favorite forum and just start asking things that you’re wondering about.  You’ll be surprised at all the answers you get.
  • Facebook Statuses – The most popular and most interacted with statuses I’ve ever had on Facebook were all questions.  They don’t even have to be about anything related to business.  People love to interact in social media, give them the opportunity to interact with you by asking questions.
  • Blog Posts – Do you have a blog?  Why not dedicate a whole post to both asking and answering a question?  Or simply throw out a question that’s been bugging you and allow your community to respond with answers in the comments?  You’ve built your community for a reason, use their collected knowledge.

Those are my favorite places to both look for and answer questions at any given time.  If you aren’t in the habit of searching out those little bits of trivia and fact, practice each day searching out one or two.  Learn something each day.  Don’t go to bed until you’ve learned something you didn’t know when you woke up.  You’ll be shocked at how quickly you can start to recall those tidbits when you need them.

The coolest thing about constantly searching out questions and answers is that eventually you’ll run out.  That’s a great time to start asking some unique questions of your own.  Once you start breaking new ground with questions that haven’t been asked before, you’ll start to see people following your lead and looking to you for those answers you’ve collected along the way.

And that’s really what you want, right?

Where are your favorite places to find answers or questions?  What questions are you asking that just aren’t getting answered?  Is there anything I can help you with that you haven’t found anywhere else?

In honor of my dad’s game, I’m going to end this post with a music trivia question.  Try to answer without searching for it online.  Leave your answer in the comments and/or share this post on Twitter with the hashtag #JoeyTrivia and the answer.

What was the pseudonym Paul McCartney used in the 1970s for his band Wings?  They only recorded one song. (Bonus point if you can name the song.)