How to ask a good question

It’s not that we don’t know the right answers, it is just that we don’t ask the right questions.
— Tony Robbins

Have a question?  The more complex the topic, the more important it is to really craft your question.  And, let's face it; context marketing and navigating through multiple solutions in your MarTech stack can get pretty complicated.  

I first learned how to ask a good question by paying $450 an hour to my lawyer for contract law guidance.  I got real motivated to write down very precise questions and to provide a complete picture of our situation in advance.  In contrast, my business partner would waltz in and ask very general questions without context.  The differences in approach were telling.  I got a better answer and he got a bigger bill.  



A lot of HR folks ask interviewees to use the STAR method when responding to job interview questions.  It can also be a good framework to use to structure a complex question.  

The STAR method stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

Situation:  Describe the situation that you're in.  What's the context of your question?  This helps provide the necessary perspective and is critical when you don't know what you don't know.  The person you're asking may know.  

Task: What goal goal are you working toward?  What's your desired outcome?  

Action: What actions have you taken already?   If you tried to do it yourself, what did you do and where did you get stuck? 

Result:  What specific results do you need to see in order for your task (above) to be successful?  You can also think of results as user acceptance tests. 

I used this approach recently and was reminded of the results.  I contracted with a Python consultant to do some data wrangling for a churn model that we're working on.  I spent a full day breaking a complex question/request into 10 discrete tasks.  I assembled a small set of sample data and showed (manually) what success looked like for each of the 10 tasks.  My overall 'ask' of the consultant was to show me the code to accomplish each task and provide a small explanation (the how & why).   

If you put the time into asking a better question, you'll always get a better result.  Think about that the next time you're tackling a complex topic.