0
The Art of Asking Questions
Karen N. Johnson
© Karen N. Johnson, 2014
Karen N. Johnson
• Software Test Consultant
• Published Author (Beautiful
Testing) For a list of
published articles, see m...
What is the purpose of this talk?
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
“The scientist is not a person who
gives the right answers, he's on...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
What do I think are the two most
important elements
of asking a que...
Timing
When you ask a question
can impact what you get for a
response.
Where you ask a question,
can impact what you get f...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
“The right thing at the wrong
time is the wrong thing.”
- Joshua Ha...
Tone
How you ask a question can
impact what you get for a
response.
You can ask the right person
the right question at the...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
“We often refuse to accept an idea
merely because the tone of voice...
“Humble Inquiry is
the fine art of
drawing someone
out, of asking
questions to which
you do not already
know the answer, o...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
“The best scientists and explorers have the
attributes of kids! The...
The journalist’s six
basic questions.
A short look at the
basic journalism
questions.
The Art of Asking Questions - © Kare...
Who?
Find the right source for
information.
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
What?
Ask questions of
substance.
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
Where?
Find a good location for
a discussion.
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
When?
Timing matters.
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
Why?
Know what you want to learn
from your questions.
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
How?
The tone of how you ask
a question influences
the outcome.
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
"What people think of as the moment
of discovery is really the disc...
The Five Whys
The concept of using the five
whys is that by persisting to
ask why, the underlying
issue, the cause of the ...
THE FIVE WHYS
• Harvard Business Review,
http://blogs.hbr.org/2010/04/the-five-whys-for-startups/
• Harvard Business Revie...
The Phoenix
Checklist
The Phoenix checklist is a list
of questions developed by
the United States Central
Intelligence Age...
THE PHOENIX CHECKLIST
• Malbon, Ben. Blog: How the CIA define problems and plan solutions: The Phoenix
Checklist http://bb...
The Socratic Method
The “teacher,” or
leader of the dialogue, asks
probing questions in an
effort to expose the values and...
The Paper Chase
In a well-known movie, The
Paper Chase, a scene between
a student and professor
demonstrates the Socratic
...
SOCRATIC METHOD
• The Paper Chase, YouTube clip:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx22TyCge7w
• Socratic Method applied to ...
Roadblocks
to asking questions and to getting answers
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
Not everyone shares
In the book, “Questions That
Work” the author Andrew
Finlayson claims there are
question killers.
“Que...
Relying on only one
source for
information
Sometimes, you might ask
the wrong person for
information.
The Art of Asking Qu...
Fear &
Intimidation
"He who asks a question is a
fool for five minutes; he who
does not ask a question
remains a fool fore...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
“And I like asking questions, to keep
learning; people with big ego...
Not doing your
homework
Don’t expect people to tell
you everything, instead learn
as much as you can ahead of
asking quest...
A Few Tips
on
Asking Questions
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
Set
a Constructive
Atmosphere
Create the right atmosphere
to ask questions.
The “right” atmosphere won’t
just be the locat...
“Creating the right
questioning
atmosphere means
adapting your
presentation to the
situation and the
other’s personality.”...
Learn
Different
Types of Questions
There are many types of
questions: open-ended,
rhetorical, leading – learning
about que...
Give people the
tools and space to
give visual answers
Some people think more
visually. Asking visual people
to explain th...
Allow answers to
come in the form of
a story
Some people answer
questions best when they
can tell a story, walk you
throug...
Don’t get lost
It’s ok to let the other person
lead but at intervals, review
your questions and notes
and make sure your
q...
Look for
spontaneous pickup
of information at
unexpected
moments
Realize you may pickup
some information “on the fly.”
Be ...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
"What people think of as the moment
of discovery is really the disc...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
“I love the early process of asking
questions about a story and dec...
Collect the artifacts
of investigation
Gather together the
information, including your
notes from interviews and
see what ...
Separate facts from
opinions
Journalists are taught early
on to distinguish between
fact and fiction. Sometimes
you can re...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
Make Sense of what
you’ve gathered
You may need to mentally
reassem...
Can you walk me through the process of the
software?
I like this question because:
• It gives the other person space to an...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
Can you tell me what you’re most concerned about
with this applicat...
“Humble Inquiry is
the fine art of
drawing someone
out, of asking
questions to which
you do not already
know the answer, o...
“Creating the right
questioning
atmosphere means
adapting your
presentation to the
situation and the
other’s personality.”...
“… the talking,
listening, thinking,
analyzing, selecting
and editing
segments that all
good interviewers
incorporate, whe...
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
"Judge a man by his questions rather than
his answers."
– Voltaire
“Maybe some of the best questions
we ask, are the questions we ask
ourselves, the internal questions, the
ones that keep u...
Questions?
The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
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The Art of Asking Questions with Karen Johnson

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As software testers, we need to learn a product thoroughly, we need to understand the user interface, the audience, the intended use of a product and we need to know how a product has been built so that we can test and investigate the robustness and readiness of a product. So we ask lots of questions. We ask designers, developers, product owners and many other people questions throughout our day and yet, rarely do we stop to recognize the skill of asking questions, let alone focus on how we might improve our approach to asking questions. Listen to the webinar as Karen Johnson talks about the art of asking questions. At the end of the session, you can ask her questions too.

View the webinar here: http://testhuddle.com/resource/the-art-of-asking-questions/

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Transcript of "The Art of Asking Questions with Karen Johnson"

  1. 1. The Art of Asking Questions Karen N. Johnson © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  2. 2. Karen N. Johnson • Software Test Consultant • Published Author (Beautiful Testing) For a list of published articles, see my website. • Teach Software Testing • Speak at conferences • Co-founder of WREST, the Workshop on Regulated Software Testing • Website: www.karennicolejohnson.com or www.karennjohnson.com • Twitter: @karennjohnson The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  3. 3. What is the purpose of this talk? The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  4. 4. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 “The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he's one who asks the right questions.” - Claude Lévi-Strauss
  5. 5. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 What do I think are the two most important elements of asking a question?
  6. 6. Timing When you ask a question can impact what you get for a response. Where you ask a question, can impact what you get for a response. The where you ask a question, factors into timing. You can ask the right person the right question but ask at the “wrong” time. Timing matters. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  7. 7. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 “The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.” - Joshua Harris
  8. 8. Tone How you ask a question can impact what you get for a response. You can ask the right person the right question at the right time but ask in a tone that can affect not just the response but your ongoing relationship with the person. Tone matters. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  9. 9. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 “We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
  10. 10. “Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  11. 11. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 “The best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids! They ask questions and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity, “Who, what, where, why, when and how! They never stop asking questions, and I never stop asking questions, just like a five year old.” - Sylvia Earle
  12. 12. The journalist’s six basic questions. A short look at the basic journalism questions. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  13. 13. Who? Find the right source for information. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  14. 14. What? Ask questions of substance. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  15. 15. Where? Find a good location for a discussion. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  16. 16. When? Timing matters. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  17. 17. Why? Know what you want to learn from your questions. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  18. 18. How? The tone of how you ask a question influences the outcome. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  19. 19. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 "What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question." - Jonas Salk
  20. 20. The Five Whys The concept of using the five whys is that by persisting to ask why, the underlying issue, the cause of the issue will be discovered. Harvard Business Review has a great short video that explains this. See: https://www.youtube.com/wat ch?v=JmrAkHafwHI The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  21. 21. THE FIVE WHYS • Harvard Business Review, http://blogs.hbr.org/2010/04/the-five-whys-for-startups/ • Harvard Business Review, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmrAkHafwHI The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  22. 22. The Phoenix Checklist The Phoenix checklist is a list of questions developed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The list is comprised of questions arranged in two sections: the problem and the solution. The questions are meant to help an investigator ask questions. The questions are intentionally context-free. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  23. 23. THE PHOENIX CHECKLIST • Malbon, Ben. Blog: How the CIA define problems and plan solutions: The Phoenix Checklist http://bbh-labs.com/how-the-cia-define-problems-plan-solutions-the- phoenix-checklist/ • Tinkham, Andy, blog post: Context-free questions http://testerthoughts.com/2003/07/16/context-free-questions/ • Strazzere, Joe, blog post: http://www.allthingsquality.com/2010/04/phoenix- checklist.html • Lambert, Rob blog post: http://thesocialtester.co.uk/professional-skeptics-dispeller-of- illusions-and-questioner/ and http://thesocialtester.co.uk/the-phoenix-checklist-mind- map/ • Kaner, Cem and Bach, James Black Box Software Testing Special Edition www.testingeducation.org/k04/documents/specBased.ppt • Bolton, Michael blog: Context-free Questions for Testing. http://www.developsense.com/blog/2010/11/context-free-questions-for-testing/ The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  24. 24. The Socratic Method The “teacher,” or leader of the dialogue, asks probing questions in an effort to expose the values and beliefs which frame and support the thoughts and statements of the participants in the inquiry. - Source: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/CT L/Newsletter/socratic_method.p df The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  25. 25. The Paper Chase In a well-known movie, The Paper Chase, a scene between a student and professor demonstrates the Socratic Method. While the Socratic Method may be a favored method of questioning for knowledge. • Intimidation • Fear • Being put on the spot Are some of the negative reactions to using the method. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  26. 26. SOCRATIC METHOD • The Paper Chase, YouTube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx22TyCge7w • Socratic Method applied to teaching: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/CTL/Newsletter/socratic_m ethod.pdf • Socratic teaching and critical thinking: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/socratic- teaching/606 • Socratic method and scientific method compared, http://www.niu.edu/~jdye/method.html The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  27. 27. Roadblocks to asking questions and to getting answers The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  28. 28. Not everyone shares In the book, “Questions That Work” the author Andrew Finlayson claims there are question killers. “Question killers can also stifle curiosity and openness with obtuse or bureaucratic answers.” The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  29. 29. Relying on only one source for information Sometimes, you might ask the wrong person for information. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  30. 30. Fear & Intimidation "He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever." - Chinese proverb * “It can be intimidating to ask questions. Sometimes you have to be humble and yet brave to ask questions.” - Karen N. Johnson The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  31. 31. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 “And I like asking questions, to keep learning; people with big egos might not want to look unsure.” - Heston Blumenthal
  32. 32. Not doing your homework Don’t expect people to tell you everything, instead learn as much as you can ahead of asking questions. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  33. 33. A Few Tips on Asking Questions The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  34. 34. Set a Constructive Atmosphere Create the right atmosphere to ask questions. The “right” atmosphere won’t just be the location but the mood and tone of the conversation. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  35. 35. “Creating the right questioning atmosphere means adapting your presentation to the situation and the other’s personality.” The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  36. 36. Learn Different Types of Questions There are many types of questions: open-ended, rhetorical, leading – learning about questions is a worthwhile “self schooling.” The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  37. 37. Give people the tools and space to give visual answers Some people think more visually. Asking visual people to explain the inner workings of software without having tools to draw can be frustrating for the person. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  38. 38. Allow answers to come in the form of a story Some people answer questions best when they can tell a story, walk you through an entire process instead of having a Q&A session. Give the person answering the ability to answer in the format that works for them. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  39. 39. Don’t get lost It’s ok to let the other person lead but at intervals, review your questions and notes and make sure your questions get answered. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  40. 40. Look for spontaneous pickup of information at unexpected moments Realize you may pickup some information “on the fly.” Be ready and be open to it. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  41. 41. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 "What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question." - Jonas Salk
  42. 42. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 “I love the early process of asking questions about a story and deciding which questions matter most.” - Diane Sawyer
  43. 43. Collect the artifacts of investigation Gather together the information, including your notes from interviews and see what you have. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  44. 44. Separate facts from opinions Journalists are taught early on to distinguish between fact and fiction. Sometimes you can receive the wrong information or conflicting information and you have to be able to discern those gaps and misleading of information. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  45. 45. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 Make Sense of what you’ve gathered You may need to mentally reassemble what you have gathered and even mentally reformulate what you believed or understood as information is gathered, consumed and understood.
  46. 46. Can you walk me through the process of the software? I like this question because: • It gives the other person space to answer in a variety of formats, including drawing. • It assumes little. • It is an open-ended question. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  47. 47. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 Can you tell me what you’re most concerned about with this application? I like this question because: • It gets to the heart of risk. • It gives a developer the chance to open up about where coding may have been challenging. • It gives a developer an opportunity to discuss what has been minimally tested or is minimally working. • It enables product owners to articulate their concerns which I can turn into test ideas and follow-up. • It speaks directly to high-level executives who want their concerns heard and addressed.
  48. 48. “Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  49. 49. “Creating the right questioning atmosphere means adapting your presentation to the situation and the other’s personality.” The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  50. 50. “… the talking, listening, thinking, analyzing, selecting and editing segments that all good interviewers incorporate, whether they realize it or not.” The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
  51. 51. The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014 "Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers." – Voltaire
  52. 52. “Maybe some of the best questions we ask, are the questions we ask ourselves, the internal questions, the ones that keep us exploring.” - Karen N. Johnson
  53. 53. Questions? The Art of Asking Questions - © Karen N. Johnson, 2014
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