I could not possibly count how many times I have heard the statement, ‘there are no dumb questions.’While I very much appreciate the thought behind this—I am sorry to say that there are indeed dumb questions.
A dumb question is question that is asked when the person has access to resources to find the answer, but doesn’t even bother looking.I often hear this type of ‘dumb’ question from my students, asking me something that is clearly (and often repeatedly) stated on the syllabus, posted on the course website and sent out via emails, yet they don’t even bother looking for the answer. Unfortunately, this affliction of asking dumb questions does not end when a student walks across the stage to collect their diploma.
Early in my career I learned that I was only as good as my resources. This was especially important while I was working alone on the start up of an international trading desk and forming new relationships and entering into new markets. I couldn’t possibly know everything about each market I was trading in or all about each company that I was trading when I started out. Instead, I learned how to find the information I needed. Seek out the information you can find and then ask informed questions.
But, just because there are dumb questions, this shouldn’t stop anyone from posing questions that they think may be dumb questions. Usually these are the best questions that are asked—and you will be doing a great service to those around you by asking what you may think others know, but they are also wondering about.These are questions that clarify, guide us to more (and more) questions and spark innovation!
So, let’s ask the questions that open up dialogue and help us get to the answers that we need to be successful. But, let’s keep in mind that dumb questions lurk in the shadows of laziness and haste. Don’t be the one that asks the truly dumb question.