We don’t always need answers

Going back to Cal Newport’s latest piece in the New Yorker, there’s one part that I keep thinking about:

For those used to a culture of immediate responsiveness, the idea of having to wait to get an answer might seem radical—even unworkable. But people who have actually experimented with this approach have found that it can lead to a better allocation of time for everyone.

We tend to take it for granted that asking questions is an unmitigated good thing. With our culture of jumping on Slack and asking questions right away, rapid fire back and forth in meetings, and internet searches for everything, we’ve lost a bit of reflection, research, and only then asking the most pertinent questions.

It’s also obvious to see that many people ask questions to make themselves look smart. I’ve often seen stakeholders ask questions that betray they don’t even understand the basic premises of the discussion, much less have the ability to meaningfully contribute.

I know it’s been way over-romanticized, but I still dream of an Amazon meeting wherein the first 15 minutes are dedicated to reading a properly prepared essay.

In any case, I think it’s worth considering that not all questions ought to be dignified with an answer.