Introducing the 10th-Anniversary Edition of



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New chapters on how questioning can help make you a better leader … a clearer thinker … and a more effective communicator.

Fresh stories about the power of questioning to inspire breakthroughs — in your work and your life.

» “Warren Berger raises questioning to an art form.”

» “A More Beautiful Question is profound and eye-opening.”

» “One closes Berger’s book newly conscious of the significance of smart questions.”


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What is the book (and this site) about?

Ten years ago, I published the book A More Beautiful Question as an exploration of why and how questioning is such a powerful force in our lives. The book shares stories of amazing breakthroughs that began with a simple—yet beautiful—question. And it shows how all of us can use questioning as a tool to bring about change and transformation in our work, our lives, and in the world around us.

Now, I’m pleased to share the new, expanded 10th anniversary edition of A More Beautiful Question.

It takes the best of the original book and adds several new chapters that address the challenges and issues of the mid-2020s—including the rise of AI… the current crisis in critical thinking…  the need for a new breed of “questioning leaders”. . .  and the role questioning can play in helping all of us to better understand and connect with one another—even in these polarizing times.

This site is about the book, of course—but it’s much more than that. Think of it as a place to learn about “questionology”—the art and science of good questioning.

There are articles about everything from why kids ask so many questions to how you can find your own beautiful question. There are fun features such as our gallery of breakthroughs that began with a question, as well as an inquiry quiz and our ever-growing question song list.

Navigate through the best of this site by clicking on the 15 questions below.

Why should you care about questioning?

Questioning is an amazing tool that you were born with but probably don’t use as much or as well as you could.

Asking questions is one of main ways we learn new things. It also helps us to explore possibilities, innovate, and solve problems.

And questioning is a powerful tool for communicating with others. It is one of the best ways to build or deepen relationships.

But if you’re not questioning often enough or thoughtfully enough, you’re not getting the most out of those superpowers.

Even if you already think of yourself as a “beautiful questioner” (and if you do, congrats!), there is much you can learn about how to formulate and ask the right questions, at the right time, in just the right way. So welcome to the world of questionology!

  • Want to know more about what questioning can do for you? Click on the rest of the questions in this lineup.
  • Find out in the short Inquiry Quiz where you rank as a questioner. 
  • And here’s a fun poster on the 8 “superpowers” associated with questioning.

What is a questionologist? (Is that really a thing?)

Well, if a questionologist isn’t a thing, it should be.

Questionology is the study of the art and science of questioning. I’ve studied questioning my entire career—first as a journalist and then as an author specializing in this subject.

Back in my newspaper reporting days, I used to wonder why some other journalists I knew didn’t seem to pay much attention to the questions they asked. Their questions were often obvious. Sometimes they asked closed questions when they should have been asking open ones. And the tone they used when inquiring ranged from bored to accusatory (not the best way to get someone talking).

Of course, this shouldn’t have been surprising because our schools don’t teach questioning skills to anybody, not even aspiring journalists.

I did some research and found hundreds of “ologies” (different fields of study)—but could find no “ology” of questioning. This led me to inquire, why not? 

My questioning then advanced from why not to what if—as in, What if I just declare myself a questionologist? I did so in the pages of the New York Times. And to my surprise, no one questioned it.

I’ve been using the term ever since, as I’ve written three books on questioning.

What is a “beautiful question”?

It all starts with a line from the poet ee cummings, who wrote:

Always the beautiful answer
Who asks a more beautiful question.

I loved that line so much I drew the title of my book from it. But then I wondered: How would I define a beautiful question?

Much of my book is about people who are asking questions in a powerful way that ignites change. Based on that, I put together this entirely subjective definition:

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.

The key words there are ambitiousactionable, and change.

Beautiful questions take on big challenges, but they can also be acted upon; they can lead to tangible results and fresh, real-world possibilities.

I think each of us should try to come up with a beautiful question to pursue. Such as: What is the fresh idea that will help my business stand out? What if I come at my work or my art in a whole different way? How might I tackle a long-standing problem that has affected my community, my family?  These are individualized, challenging, and potentially game-changing questions.

Why do so many breakthroughs and innovations begin with a question?

As I was working on A More Beautiful Question, a big part of my research was tracing the origins of various innovations. It’s amazing how often the starting point of a breakthrough involves someone, somewhere asking: Why does this problem exist?, and What if I tried to change it by doing X?

It’s natural for people—especially curious, inventive people—to notice everyday situations that are less than ideal and then ask why that situation exists . . . and whether it could possibly be changed.

The phenomenon isn’t limited to invention stories. Asking Why can be the first step to bringing about change in almost any context.

An artist, for instance, may look at conventional styles of expression and ask, Why do it that familiar way? Why not try something different? And in our everyday lives, questioning can be the spark that leads a person to change habits and behaviors. Just asking, Why am I doing things the way I’m doing them? becomes the first step on the road to personal change.

As I studied innovators, I found they used questioning throughout their creative process, using different types of questions at different stages. Questioning not only helps you identify a problem or need, it also can help you to imagine possible solutions—and bring those possibilities to life.

  • Check out our gallery of question-origin stories They All Started with a Question.
  • Learn why it’s so important for innovators (including you!) to take ownership of questions in order to bring about change.
  • And click on the next question below to find out the 3 types of questions that can be used to solve problems and innovate.


If you’re trying to innovate or solve a problem, there are 3 questions—actually three types of questions—that can be particularly useful:

  • Start by asking Why about that problem
  • Then ask, What If
  • Lastly, ask How

This three-part Why–What if–How framework is designed to help guide you through the various levels of problem-solving.

There’s a good reason why these types of questions work best when asked in this order.

  • Why questions help us to understand a problem or challenge
  • What if questions enable us to hypothesize about possible solutions
  • And How questions help us to begin to implement those ideas and possibilities

As I show in my book, this questioning approach led to innovations ranging from Airbnb to Netflix. But you can use it in everyday situations, as well.

For example, if you’re having trouble meeting your work deadlines, start with Why questions to identify the various reasons you might be having this problem, then use What if and How questions to first brainstorm solutions and then devise a practical plan of action.


People tend to view questioning as something so fundamental and instinctive that we don’t need to think about it. After all, any preschooler can ask questions easily and profusely.

One study found the average four-year-old girl asks more than 300 a day. It’s almost enough to make a parent say: “Enough! No more questions!”

But be careful what you wish for: Chances are, for the rest of her life, that four-year-old girl will never again ask questions as instinctively, as imaginatively, or as freely as she does at that shining moment. Unless she is exceptional, that age is her questioning peak.

Why do kids’ questions subside or even stop as they age? As I explore in the book, there are a number of forces that work against questioning, including peer pressure and time pressures (in the classroom, and later in the workplace, there often just isn’t time for questioning).

Beyond that, there is also a general lack of appreciation—in schools, and in the culture at large—of the value of questions. It doesn’t take long for students to figure out that they’re rewarded for their answers, not their questions.

  • Check out this book excerpt about what’s going in in kids’ developing brains that causes them to ask so many questions—and what gradually tamps down that urge to inquire.
  • And click on the next question below for more on what schools can do to promote student questioning.


It’s no secret that schools, in general, tend to value and reward memorized answers over creative questions. But does that make sense in today’s world?

Our educational system was created in the Industrial Age. It wasn’t designed to produce innovative thinkers—but rather to produce workers. To do that, education systems put a premium on compliance and rote memorization of basic knowledge.

But as we move from an industrial society to more of an entrepreneurial one—with a need for more creative, independent-thinking “workers”—should we trade in the factory/obedience model of schooling for more of a questioning model?

Among those who’ve studied the needs of the evolving workplace, the consensus seems to be that this new world demands citizens who are self-learners; who are creative and resourceful; and who can adjust and adapt to constant change.

As for skills not needed in this new environment? Two of those would be the ability to memorize and repeat back facts—because technology now puts those facts at our fingertips, eliminating the need for memorization.

Bottom line: Our schools need to encourage student questioning and strengthen inquiry skills.


Carl Sagan, the celebrated astronomer, was a champion of critical thinking who once said:

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority . . . then we are up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.

Today, decades later, Sagan’s words seem prescient. We have seen people fall prey to conspiracy theories and “big lies” espoused by politicians, media pundits, and others playing the role of Sagan’s “charlatan.” Even in the larger population, among those not prone to extremist views, it’s harder than ever to sift through the information glut to determine what’s true and who should be believed.

The current crisis in critical thinking may be THE issue of our times. Neil Browne, a leading expert on the subject, argues in a new book that A Healthy Democracy’s Best Hope lies in strengthening the critical thinking of its citizens.

Indeed, if those citizens aren’t willing or able to think critically as they choose potential leaders, they’re apt to choose bad ones. And if they can’t judge whether the information they’re receiving is sound, they may follow bad advice while ignoring recommendations that are science-based and solid (and perhaps life-saving).

Moreover, as a society, if we can’t think critically about the problems we face, it becomes more difficult to reach a consensus on them—much less solve them.

In A More Beautiful Question, I look at some of the ways questioning can improve our thinking—but only if we’re asking thoughtful questions and doing so with the right mindset (which may be the hardest part).


People sometimes think that if you “question everything,” that makes you a critical thinker. But critical thinking is about asking questions with an open mind—and a willingness to change your mind based on evidence.

Conspiracy theorists are inclined to ask lots of questions: How do we know that thing we saw on the news really happened? Why should we believe what we’re being told? There’s nothing wrong with asking skeptical questions, but there’s a fine line between skepticism and denialism.

These days, political partisans and media provocateurs sometimes abuse questions by using them to sow doubt or even to suggest nefarious things about the opposing side.

I came across a great term in the Urban Dictionary: “JAQing off” is defined as “the act of asking leading questions to influence your audience, then hiding behind the defense that you’re “Just Asking Questions.”

To a questionologist like myself, all of this can be disheartening. I’ve always thought of questioning as a tool of learning and discovery—one that helps us get at the truth. But these days, the tool may also be used to muddy the waters and even to deny reality.

In the new edition of A More Beautiful Question, I argue for “questioning responsibly.” That means we should ask questions rooted in curiosity and free of agenda. We can certainly question facts but must also have a healthy respect for them. Above all, we should be open to whatever answers our questions elicit.


Questions are a powerful tool for communicating with others and building relationships.

When you ask questions of another person:

  1. You show interest
  2. You give them a chance to share their thoughts and feelings
  3. This in turn gives you an opportunity to respond and (hopefully) share your own feelings

It’s a great way to form a bond with another person. That’s why therapists, coaches, hostage negotiators, and others who need to quickly build trusting relationships rely so heavily on questions.

In A More Beautiful Question, I share examples of the kinds of questions that can help you:

  • start conversations with strangers
  • get people talking about their real interests
  • avoid misunderstandings during conversations
  • find common ground, even in the midst of disagreements.

The book also shares the story of scientist Arthur Aron, who painstakingly put together a list of 36 questions designed to create “instant intimacy” between strangers.

Aron brought pairs of strangers into his university lab and had them take turns asking each other the 36 questions and responding. Most of the pairs of strangers came out of the session with highly positive feelings for each other—and one couple later married!


While working on the book, I wrote an article for Fast Company titled “Questions to Help You Find Your Passion in Life” that went viral.

The idea is, if you ask yourself the right questions, it can help bring to the surface some deep interests and buried talents—which can point you toward possible activities, endeavors, or careers to think more about.

Based on talking to a number of life coaches and other experts, here is the list I compiled:

  1. What did I enjoy doing at age 10?
  2. What am I doing when I feel most beautiful?
  3. When I enter a bookstore, what section am I drawn to?
  4. What is something I believe that almost nobody agrees with me on? 
  5. What are my superpowers? 
  6. Looking back on my career, 20 or 30 years from now, what do I want to say I’ve accomplished? 
  7. What is my tennis ball?
  8. What is my sentence?

Wondering how those questions work? Check out Find Your Passion on this site to learn more about the rationale behind each question.

  • And to bolster the courage needed to pursue a passion (and face possible failure), here is a handful of questions you can ask yourself when trying to overcome fears and doubts.


In doing my research for A More Beautiful Question, I studied many great questioners: artists, scientists, philosophers, tech innovators.

But two people really stood out for me.

The first would be Albert Einstein, who referred to curiosity as something “holy”—and urged us to never lose that sense of wonder.

Einstein also believed that when trying to solve problems, it’s important to make sure you’re answering the “right question”—lest you end up spending valuable time going down the wrong paths.

Joining Einstein atop my personal list of master questioners is George Carlin. What’s a comedian doing up there with one of the world’s greatest scientific thinkers? Carlin was a pioneer of observational humor. Much of his work involved dissecting human foibles and asking Why do we do the odd things we do?

I wasn’t able to interview Carlin for my book (he died a few years before I began work on it), but I talked to his daughter Kelly Carlin about how his inquisitive mind worked. She told me Carlin always tried to see the world from an outsider’s perspective—which can be a big part of being a good questioner. This enabled him to see things that others missed—and to question everything he saw.


As I became obsessed with all things questioning-related, I started to become aware of more and more songs that have a question for a title—and then I began compiling those songs on a list.

My list now runs more than 100 titles and features everyone from the Beatles to the Black Eyed Peas. This list does not include the many songs that don’t have a question title but do feature questions prominently in the lyrics, such as “A Little Help from My Friends“ by the Beatles or The Moody Blues’ 1970 song simply titled “Question.” I had to draw the line somewhere.

Songwriter and performer Marvin Gaye is the reigning champ with three question-title songs on the list. Can you name them? (You can cheat by taking a look at the songlist.)

Why do so many songs ask us questions? I think it’s because questions are so engaging. A question is an invitation to think about something—it’s a puzzle your brain wants to solve.

(By the way, this is also why questions can work better than New Year’s resolutions when you’re trying to make a change. It’s also why, for a company, a mission question could be more motivating than a mission statement.)

Getting back to the songlist, it is by no means comprehensive—people are always informing me about songs I’ve missed and I invite you to do likewise.


I would bet that if you’ve found your way to this website and are now clicking through its various questions, you are probably a curious individual with a penchant for questioning.

But are you a “beautiful questioner?”

Of course, this is a highly-subjective designation, based in part on how I define what a “beautiful question” is. It’s also based on the traits I’ve observed in studying people who are known to be great questioners. Several qualities and tendencies set those people apart.

Just for fun, I have devised a short “Inquiry Quotient” (I.Q.) quiz you can take to see how you measure up as a questioner. There is nothing scientific about this test. Acing it will earn you no special certification, since there is no professional Questionologist organization . . . yet. But go ahead and take the test anyway, because… why not?


I welcome your beautiful questions—the things you’re wondering about, the goals and dreams you’ve put into question form. See the What’s Your Beautiful Question page for some other readers’ samples and how to send me your question.

If you want to interview me for print or broadcast media, drop a line to my book publicist Lauren Wilson (Lauren [dot]Wilson[at]Bloomsbury[dot]com).

If you have a podcast and would like to have me on, contact me here at the site (I do lots of podcasts and love doing them).

If you’re a company or any type of organization looking for a guest speaker, you can reach me here or through my site. I’ve spoken at Starbucks, Disney, Pepsi, the NASA Space Program, the U.S. Army, and many other organizations.

If you’re an educator interested in learning more about how to inspire questioning in the classroom, let me know. In some cases, I visit schools to lecture and conduct questioning exercises, but even if I can’t come to your school, I can probably share some resources with you.



The art and science of questioning.


Good thinking starts with good questions.


Leading with curiosity and inquiry.


Fostering kids’ innate ability to question.


Questioning’s key role in creativity.

The Questioning Life

How questions can improve your life.
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