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Knowledge is, having the right answer. Intelligence is, having the right Questions.

The above statement would be very much relevant for the present, information rich world of ours. We are getting lost not only in Data, but also in the multitude of answers that you can get for a question, especially in the present scenario of a complex information rich world that is brimming with Lies, Statistics and Bias. 

Questions are important not only for an inquiry mindset of learning that was once proposed by the great philosophers like Socrates, but, asking the right questions is even more important today because of the answers deluge we are in. Having the right and meaningful question gives us the ability to sift through the meaningful ones for relevance.

If you really think about it, every Data Science endeavor is nothing more than an effort to answer questions. Some of the questions are so explicit and descriptive, like finding answers to the well-documented KPIs in an organization. What happened, When and Where?

Or, it could be a data journalism narrative on a topic of interest that dwells more into reasoning out the How of things.  There could be others which might fall in the philosophical or the scientific realm of Whys leading to discovering hidden connections and insights with data.

eintsteinquestioneverythingThe hallmark of a good question is that its answer should lead you to even better questions, extending this journey of inquiry into the possibilities of a more informed world or enabling more informed decisions.

As they say, “Now that we know what we know, what else is possible now?” Some of the best data narratives are the ones that lead you into a path of enlightenment, like peeling an onion, one question at a time. The sheer arrangement of questions and answers in a way that resonates well with the cognitive mindset of the information consumer, enriching his information assimilation process, adds glory to the data sensemaking effort.

It’s just not about the “small minded, closed questions” on How many? When? Where? How fast? that makes us aware of our surroundings. Those questions are the first steps towards being aware. The world is more and more realizing that in the present, information rich times, we must get prepared to ask even more sophisticated questions like the Why? What-if? How else? This progression marks the true genesis of data sensemaking and the firms that have successfully transitioned into this new scientific realm are the ones that are really benefiting out of the data age.

As Warren Berger claims in his book, A More Beautiful Question, the answers to the “small minded” questions are everywhere and easily accessible. The real value is in, what else you can do with that knowledge in pursuit of a query.

So, it all starts with a Question.

How does one pick up this skill or how did we even lose this in the first place?

  • Continued in Part 2 of this article.

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