andy@ideagroupatlanta.com | (404) 213-4416
13
MAR
2013

The Heartbreak of Questiophobia! Are You Afraid of Asking Questions?

Tragic, senseless, it strikes with no respect to sex or age. Questiophobia – the catastrophic fear of asking questions. There seems to be an epidemic of bad information, misinformation and no information that’s infecting creative, content development, communication and marketing. Are you afraid of asking questions?

Top Executive Survey

I didn’t know how widely Questiophobia has spread, so I contacted a group of top business executives and asked. They represent a pretty high-powered cross section of food service, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, engineering and technology. Here’s some of what I learned.

On a scale of 1–10, how important is asking good questions?

“10″ – that’s what Alicia Thompson, vice president, Communications & Public Relations, at Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen, said — and so did Kevin Rooney, vice president, Marketing, at HARTMANN USA, Inc. Everyone in the survey agreed that asking good questions is absolutely critical.

What percentage of business problems are caused by not having enough information or the right information?

Jan Koors, director – Global Events at NCR Corporation, told me, “100%.”

Mark Jackson, vice president Immediate Consumption and Field Execution at Dr Pepper Snapple Group, made the estimate a little lower. “In my mind, probably half of all business problems result from not enough or the right information.”

Chris Johnston, senior vice president, Critical Facilities, and chief engineer at Syska Hennessy Group, also said about 50%. “Some people have the idea that asking questions means they don’t know. So they come back with either less information than we need, or the wrong information. Asking questions is how you find out.”

Jonathan Arm, M.D., translational medicine expert, said 70% and came back with a very interesting observation: “If someone has all the information but ignores or fails to see the significance of some of it, do they really have enough information?”

All our executives agreed: The majority of business problems are caused by not having enough information or the right information.

Getting The Right information

It’s probably human nature to avoid asking questions. But why? After all, it is your job to ask for the information you need – and it’s the other person’s job to give it to you.

I think many people hate to ask questions simply because they don’t know what to ask. Paranoia sets in, and they are stricken with Questiophobia. Let’s see what the executives had to say about being afraid to ask.

Why do you feel that some people are reluctant to ask questions?

I feel people are reluctant to ask questions mostly out of a fear of being perceived as unintelligent, foolish or out of touch.  I see this all the time.”  – Mark Jackson

I think they are afraid it will make them appear to lack certain knowledge.” – Alicia Thompson

“Sometimes it’s the fear of losing competitive advantage. You ask an important question and they share the answer with the competition.” – Chris Johnston

It’s that secret fear of asking a ‘dumb’ question or revealing their hand if it’s a competitive situation.” – Jan Koors

“Often people think that only details and specifications are important. They are afraid to ask about the reasoning and motivations behind the project or decision. They are reluctant to ask ‘why are you doing this?’ because they think they are going to insult the decision-makers.” – Jonathan Arm

What These Executives Are Telling Us

I’ll be the first to admit that this wasn’t a scientific survey, but the responses from this very diverse group of top executives were very consistent.  Here’s what we can take away.

•  Asking good questions is absolutely critical in developing content, marketing or in a competitive situation.
•  Yet most people walk away with a lack of information or the wrong information.
•  Fear of asking questions is a major stumbling block to success.

There is a Cure For Questiophobia

If we work together, we can stamp out Questiophobia in our lifetime. There is a cure!

In the first article in this series, I explained the importance of asking “Why?” Drill down on the “why” and you’ll discover what’s unique and put the emphasis on results. Asking smart “why” questions is the key to understanding, but there are more questions you should ask every time.

In the next article in this three-part series, we’ll talk about how to ask other smart questions that uncover the important information you need. Plus, our blue-ribbon group of executives will share some unique advice about how to ask decision-makers the best questions about a project, program or business issue.

So check back in here soon. If all else fails, we can have a Questiophobia Telethon!

Special Guest Illustrator

From time to time, we feature the work of a talented illustrator to help catch your attention and make the point.  Patrick Boland is the principal creative at PBeCREATIVE  in Chicago, Illinois. As an artist, illustrator, designer and art director, Patrick and his team do it all. See more at www.pbecreative.com.

If you want to know more about how to use smart questions to create powerful content just click on CONTACT US and get in touch.

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About the Author
Andy Johnston is a multi-faceted communication professional who has a comfortable way of working with people. Andy is an Emmy Award winning communicator known for his energy, humor, creativity and his unique ability to discover the key results that must be generated – and then to develop ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. He has broad experience in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing, and events. One of the things Andy says often is, “How can we make it better?”
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