The Art of Questioning – Reinvented

The Evolution of Asking Questions from the Perspective of our (Digital) Habits

Csóti Emese

Digital Content Strategist

Let’s Do a Brief Exercise

Ask a question about the causes of car accidents from three different sources and review the quality and the feel of the answers:

1. Asking a police officer:

Me: Officer John, what are the most common causes of car accidents in your area?

Officer John: ”Hey, you’re right on the spot. I’m just returning from a scene of an accident caused by my neighbour’s nephew. Well, in my experience, distracted driving is one of the most common causes of car accidents. I see a lot of people using their cell phones while behind the wheel, which can lead to regrettable situations. Speeding is another major cause of accidents. People often think they can get somewhere faster by driving over the speed limit, but this only increases the chances of an accident. Drunk driving is still a huge problem, despite increased awareness and stricter laws. I see far too many accidents on the routes from the downtown area to the suburbs, caused by people who get behind the wheel after drinking.” 

2. Asking Google:

Me: most common causes of car accidents

Top Google Search result:

3. Asking ChatGPT:

Me: I'd like to outline a study based on the most common causes of car accidents of the last decade. Please write a few bullet points of the top 5 most common causes of car accidents.


Well, the above piece of exercise teaches us one major thing: expect answers based on who you are asking

The Evolution of Questioning

Face-to-Face Interactions

Remember the times when you had a school paper due and went on asking different people for their perspective on a certain topic, let’s say, Public Perception and Opinions on the First Moon Landing in 1969? And when you were fed some crumbs of knowledge, you felt the need to do some more digging. The librarian used to be the second stop where you had to go prepared with a list of questions if you wanted them to guide you in the right direction in the library maze. They needed the context, your angle, the books you already knew about, and the end game you were playing.

Okay, now we can hop off the nostalgia train. But the main idea is that thanks to those assignments, we needed to rely on one of the most important things a person can acquire while growing up: creativity and critical thinking combined. The roads leading to the end product have always been and still are diverse. However, the skill to navigate these roads is essential for reaching your desired destination. In the past, the art of questioning has been developed through face-to-face interactions, reading the other person’s expressions and mastering the skills of critical thinking.

Building and refining this skill is what gives the upper hand when it comes to creating strong bonds, both personally and professionally, with each other. And critical thinking’s best friend in the sandbox goes by the name of Asking Questions.

If I’m only projecting it to our daily work routines that include client meetings, planning workshops, team meetings, brand strategy creation, and software development kick-off meetings (the list goes on), there is no such thing as too many questions. Questions beyond Google, to be clear. I know, this tale is as old as time. Yet, in my humble experience, it continues to be practised by only a disproportionately small number of individuals. By the end of the day, every meeting is an opportunity to master the art of questioning. And as a side effect, it helps in:

  • clarifying and getting a deeper understanding of the subject matter and preventing misunderstandings or confusion;
  • identifying new perspectives and ideas. It allows different viewpoints to be heard and considered, leading to more innovative/creative solutions;
  • pinpointing areas where further research or investigation is needed.
  • building trust and rapport with other participants. It shows that you are actively listening, engaged, and interested in the discussion and that you value the input of others;
  • getting to the root of a problem or issue by identifying the underlying causes;
  • proving that you respect others’ opinions and are genuinely interested in understanding their perspective.

Either way, this opportunity is up for grabs, and besides getting the most out of any kind of meeting and human interaction, it further sharpens your critical thinking, mastering the art of questioning.

Google Search

With the advent of digital technology, the art of questioning has undergone a significant evolution in recent years. The easy explanation for this is the rise of Google, which has evolved from being merely a noun to being a verb. As we have become increasingly reliant on the internet for information, the way we ask questions and seek answers have been fundamentally transformed. With a simple act of putting one keyword after another and the click of a button, we can access an endless stream of information at lightning speed.

This has led to a new era of questioning, one that is defined by the convenience and accessibility of the digital age. As we navigate this new landscape, it is essential to consider how our digital habits shape the art of questioning and how we can use technology to enhance this essential skill, rather than replace it altogether.

Who is a good Google searcher?

In short, who finds the most reliable and accurate answer to a specific question in the shortest possible time. Supposedly, this is the goal, and the primary skills required include the following:

  • the ability to spot the most relevant keywords and phrases; 
  • practising advanced Search techniques such as using quotation marks to search for an exact phrase;
  • having SEO perspective which can greatly assist in finding information online;
  • critical thinking: the ability to evaluate the credibility and relevance of the information found in the Search Results Page and consider alternative perspectives;
  • patience: it's important to take your time to sift through the Search Results and don’t rely on the top result that pops up.

Once again, critical thinking prevails. We are back to this very unbeatable cognitive skill among all the other handy best practices. The ways we evaluate and compare the quality of information, its source and content combined with the user experience are the main criteria for deciding on the best possible answers.  

While Google might be one’s best friend and remain a trusted fellow for the time being, the rapid pace dictated by technology demands an even more intense mastery of our skills to uncover the most fulfilling answers. I wouldn’t even dare to state that it is an end of an era. At this moment, the Google era started resembling ice cream that takes on a different shape and texture when exposed to heat. The transformation is inevitable, as technology undergoes occasional and gradual seismic shifts, reshaping the entire landscape.

The question is, how do we adapt our habits, skills and logical thinking to these changes? What is within our power to play our cards right and win this hand?

AI-Based Chat Interfaces

The end of 2022 was marked by realising that, once again, we are facing a so-called a game-changing revolution. So we arrived at our third destination: the polite robot, the blinking cursor which gives you answers in seconds (giving the impression of someone thinking hard before speaking) in the most spookish way possible. It goes by the name of ChatGPT, as you might have guessed.

Starting from mid-December, my LinkedIn feed went bananas, and the most followed newsletters could not stay quiet about this omniscient bot that is eager to answer your most outlandish requests. The notion of “playing around with it” became intensely used as we all began exploring its capabilities, trying to push its boundaries and discover all the relevant areas it can be helpful to us. Since then, the creative community has been supplying us with the best writing prompts and tips for the best results. In essence, there is a medium that guides us in the art of questioning. A manual for asking thought-provoking questions might just be in the making.

So it is safe to say that the latest stage in the art of questioning is the rise of AI-based chat interfaces. Designed to answer questions in a conversational manner, much like a person would, they use advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques to understand the context of a question and provide relevant answers. This new form of questioning has the potential to combine the benefits of both face-to-face interactions and Google Searches. For example, AI-based chat interfaces can provide quick answers like Google, but on the plus side, they can also dig deeper, come up with nuanced answers in different tonalities, or use a combination of previous answers.

Friend or Foe? How did the World Welcome ChatGPT?

Foe Scenario

Remember the times when you had a school paper due and went on asking different people for their perspective on a certain topic, let’s say, Public Perception and Opinions on the First Moon Landing in 1969? And when you were fed some crumbs of knowledge, you felt the need to do some more digging. The librarian used to be the second stop where you had to go prepared with a list of questions if you wanted them to guide you in the right direction in the library maze. They needed the context, your angle, the books you already knew about, and the end game you were playing.

There are those who think of it as a doomsday scenario. It might be a bit far-fetched, but at first, the sudden uncertainty and sense of replaceability had been hanging over creative professionals such as copywriters, content creators, marketing specialists, etc. To a certain degree, at least. Doubting the value, originality, and usefulness of one's creative mind has forecasted the demise of earning daily bread. And this phenomenon was indeed validated by the public opinion of different business leaders (Business Insider: ChatGPT may be coming for our jobs. Here are the 10 roles that AI is most likely to replace). According to them, in today's challenging economic climate with rising costs, ChatGPT is a blessing as they can let go of mediocre staff whose tasks can be performed in seconds by a free tool. Remember, the keyword here is mediocre. The debates are ongoing on whether this new language model is about to replace humans in creating content to engage audiences. And taking this idea a bit further, let’s see what the bot in question has to say about it:

Friend Scenario

Some people greeted ChatGPT with immense curiosity or calm reluctance. But they all started grinding it with the attitude of “Get over here, show me what you’ve got! Let me see if you’re good enough!”

They were not taken over by uncertainty or questioning their own roles within the industry or their security at a company. Instead, their curiosity and eagerness to push the boundaries have led them to explore how ChatGPT can assist them. According to this side, ChatGPT doesn’t mean that everyone can write digital content from now on. Because, hey, not everyone was capable of writing before. Then what is likely to happen because there is obviously a shift we’re witnessing?

  1. Mediocrity might be less tolerated, and specific personalities and strong points of view in the content will have much more leverage.
  2. More emotional and authentic voices will prevail as they will stand out from the auto-generated clutter.
  3. The intellectual labour market gets reshuffled, without necessarily implying complete replacements. ChatGPT sure can handle large chunks of work typically carried out by journalists, technical writers, advertisers, paralegals, or even accountants, but the appearance of new roles is also very much indicated. (Just imagine a future colleague as a Junior ChatGPT Researcher working as your third arm.) 
  4. Human creativity supported by a language model will get reshaped if the “human” is able to ask the right questions. Brainstorming is now something you can do by yourself. Okay, not totally alone, ChatGPT will be there for you day ’n’ night. But the creative processes and the triggers that put one in a creative state are about to be altered for good.

In this swirling vortex of change, the art of questioning is more important than ever. Because, you see, the results you get are only as good as the questions you ask. The digital realm may dazzle us with its vastness, but it is our critical thinking and creativity that unlock its hidden treasures.

When it comes to ChatGPT and its future counterparts, I prefer to envision the Friend Scenario. As the gears of progress turn, we must wholeheartedly embrace the shifting landscape and adapt our minds accordingly. However, let’s not forget that even though technology has now given us all this highly knowledgeable digital companion, inspiration can be found in the most surprising of places. It could be nestled within the crinkled pages of an old book, amidst a packed metro ride home, within the melodies of nature during an outdoor run, or even within the vibrant energy among the stands of street markets.

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