I was watching the movie "16 blocks" last weekend and Mos Def asks Bruce Willis a riddle, which goes something like this:
"Imagine you are driving through a severe hurricane and at a bus stop you see three people: an old lady in need of immediate medical care, your best friend and the love of your life. You only have room in your car for one person. Who do you pick up?"
Everyone will start rationalizing at this moment. Should I save the life of an old woman, or my best friend or the love of my life? Who do I pick, and what will it say about me? What will happen to the rest? Whose life is more important? More important to whom? And so on and so forth.
This is where the power of questioning comes. Realize that a question can either open doors or close them depending on how it is posed. The way a question is posed can subconsciously inject unstated and unnecessary conditions into the picture (Riddles are deliberately coined with the wrong question to lead you astray).
Questions can be empowering "How do you feel about what has happened so far?" or dis-empowering "Why did you not meet the schedule?".
Questions can be open-ended "What do you think about this idea?" or closed ended "Do you agree with this decision?".
Questions can be confrontational "why did you do that?".
Questions can be accusatory "Do you know that this whole company is going down because of what you did?".
Questions can be thought-provoking "what could we have done to avoid this?".
In the 16 blocks situation, the question can easily box you into a corner. "Whom would you pick?" seems to indicate that you have only one choice: to pick one of them. Most people put this subconscious condition that the choice is restricted to just picking one of the three people.
Let us now look at a different approach in framing the same question, and the doors it opens: "What would you do in this situation?".
Hah. What could I do in this situation? I could pick one of the three people and drive off. I could give the car to two of them and they can drive off leaving me behind. This never seemed possible with the pre-conceived notions we had earlier. I could drive off as fast as possible and get more help. The possibilities are limited only by ones imagination.
We get the results we want by asking the right questions in the right way. The right way to find solutions is to know how to ask.
In the end, Bruce Willis answers "I will give the car to my best friend and tell him to take the old woman to a hospital. I will stay with the love of my life".