Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions

Subject: Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions
From: "WongWord -at- gmail -dot- com" <wongword -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L list" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2011 12:13:45 +1100

I have been an editor of various products and formats for over 30 years working in the fields of statistics, occupational health, financial regulation and consumer protection.

Well into my career the issue of asking "the stupid" question has still been an issue for me when I have found something that doesn't seem to fit the assumptions and pictures I had drawn about subject matter with which I had no real expertise. In deciding how to ask such questions I have always tried to briefly tell them why I have asked this question. This is because sometimes when you ask a question you have the right observations but the wrong question. If I am on the track of an error then explaining my reasons for asking helps them think about why I am questioning them.

In those 30 years I have made about 6 significant finds in the work I have edited. By this I mean I have found this number of serious errors , made by subject matter experts. This may not seem like many finds but there have been 3 major outcomes from my questioning:
1 the subject matter officer has been saved from huge embarrassment
2 the organisation has been saved from huge embarrassment and cost in reprints
3 I earned respect and acknowledgment from the subject matter officer

That said when I have had to ask "the question" i have usually prefaced with an explanation that this might be a silly question but I just can't understand why.... While I found 6 serious problems I should mention that these were in fact the only questions that I ever asked that I thought were stupid or basic. To me I got a 100% success but that does not mean that the authors didn't think some other questions were stupid! There is too much at stake not to ask.

Irene Wong

--------------------------------------------------
From: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 01, 2011 2:06 PM
To: "TECHWR-L list" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Subject: Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions

They both have the same objective, which is to help the uninitiated avoid asking questions that will be considered "stupid" by people who are less likely to be helpful if those kinds of questions are asked of them.



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References:
Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions: From: Phil
Re: Coaching less experienced folks on asking good questions: From: Gene Kim-Eng

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