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Create a web based mechanism to discuss if we are asking the right questions about certain subjects. "ARE WE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS?"

There are many subjects where discussions get sidetracked and useful resolutions don't get discussed and implemented because the wrong questions are asked.

I would love to see some sort of web based mechanism created and used where people could raise a red flag when they saw subjects debated where the discussion had been diverted and the important facets of the subject were being ignored or missed.

A way to raise these red flags so they can serve as effective warnings that will be heeded by the press and humanity alike would help serve mankind.

For example, in electing candidates, how much time is wasted talking about things that have virtually nothing to do with the abilities of candidates to successfully carry out the duties of their offices? Instead of asking about and discussing things that are irrelevant, we would be better served by defining those skills that are important for a successful office holder to have. The press is particularly guilty of not asking the right questions but rather of wallowing in sensationalism and endless poll results reporting. "ARE WE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS?"

Another related misdirected type question could be do we mistake desiring to get the MOST people to vote in an election with trying to get the people who are BEST QUALIFIED to vote in an election. We often mistake quantity for quality. "ARE WE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS?"

I believe there are many subjects that are discussed in public and by the press that are not properly debated because people tend to follow the initial line of discussion and often don't look at issues with a fresh eye to make sure the right questions are asked.

How can you suggest such a mechanism could be created?

Perhaps a website called: "ARE WE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS?"

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    Aug 3 2012: Isn't TED an opportunity to raise questions and determine whether others agree that they are important? A means of taking subjectivity out of your assumptions about the questions that should be asked?

    What are you looking for that can't be achieved through this sort of discussion?
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    Aug 2 2012: Concerning questions and answers, sometimes people are dishonest.
    There are times when someone avoids certain questions because he or she can not provide answers that expresses competence or solutions.
    But there are times when an individual or people reject an answer or some answers, because such is not in agreement with their prejudice.
    • Aug 2 2012: I agree with you Feyisayo that sometimes people avoid some line of discussion and questioning because they have a particular axe to grind and want their point of view accepted. This is not what I am referring to though. I am talking about completely missing the raising of questions about an issue that are valid but not thought about because people are too focused on whatever line of logic has started to be discussed.

      I'm sure everyone has experienced situations where they try to come up with a resolution to a problem where they feel like they've come up with all the reasonable solutions only to have someone else come along and make a suggestion that trumps everything they've thought about. When this happens, one realizes that by putting blinders on and only looking down one path, we limit our ability to see more and possibly better solutions. When we get stuck looking at a problem from one viewpoint only, we tend to not realize there are other solutions.

      I would like to see better web solutions to help us not be sidelined, sidetracked or led down a limited path when complex issues are discussed.
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        Aug 2 2012: Personally, it's easier to just say "I don't know" lol
  • Aug 2 2012: How would we know if we are asking the right question except by the results of our assumptions playing out be for our very eyes.
    • Aug 2 2012: John, I don't think waiting for the results is the only way to figure out if we are asking the right questions. Certainly observing shows us the results of the way we might have chosen but being open to challenging the idea that there is only one possible solution or viewpoint to an issue should open us up to possible finding better solutions. My point is we need better mechanisms to help to keep our minds open to many different ways of viewing situations.
      • Aug 2 2012: Certainly observing shows us the results of the way we might have chosen

        We cannot change the way we chose in the past and imagining that we could have chosen differantly, is a basic human error. We chose out of all of who we were at that time and that is all we were. There was no one else present.

        Moving forward we have many possibilities and we will choose the one which dominates all of who we are at that specific time based upon our values and how we make decisions.

        The mechanism of decision making can be greatly improved by becoming more conscious of feelings and integrating them with the minds objectivity.

        The Chinese are better at this than we in the West. This is one of the reasons that women are moving up in corporate because they integrate the two more radially than the white men.
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    Aug 2 2012: As 'right' and 'wrong' are always subject to personal preferences, value and belief system and cultural background, no mechanism was able to objectify that.

    I am always sceptical if someone tells me, that I was not asking the 'right question' and usually it means nothing but the answer is 'inconvenient' or 'presumptuous' for their own intention or hidden agenda.

    So insead of stating what is wrong just rise the question you think is right. This keeps a discussion going and is more constructive anyway.
    • Aug 2 2012: Jan-Bernd, I agree that raising a question you think is right is exactly what I am talking about. That would not only keep the discussion going but ,as you say, it would make it more constructive. That is what I am after. I am looking for a way to encourage the participants of a discussion to NOT get stuck with the direction a particular issue is being debated. There is nothing wrong with going back and forth with certain points in a discussion. What I am looking for is a way to help people take fresh looks at issues. We need to have a better way to frame and re-frame issues and possible answers.

      I realize everybody has their own viewpoints and feelings about what is right or wrong. These are, as you point out, based on personal value systems and cultures. That is fine and even helpful in coming up with different "right questions." I am just concerned that people get led in one direction when discussing issues and don't take a step or two back and look at the issue with fresh eyes.
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        Aug 2 2012: I see your point now, Mark.

        What helpes me to see the world with 'fresh eyes' is changing my context, my surrounding and even better, my country. This is why I like to be influenced as 'international' as I can possibly be, as it forces me to question my standpoint over and over again and to learn about solutions people find for the same problems I face myself and what they come up with.

        Changing perspective is also known within the 'creative industry' to find inspiration by 'giving up' a well known environment. Our mind probably works differently if we leave our mental 'comfort zone' and opens up more widely for new perceptions of 'old known knowledge'.

        Sometimes it even helps to go for a walk at unknown places. And if it doesn't it at least was a healthy excercise... ;o)
        • Aug 2 2012: Jan-Bernd, changing the context of how you approach a question certainly does help to prompt one to come at an issue from different perspectives. I am more and more aware of how global our societies have become in past several decades. I think this helps to get varied viewpoints and have questions asked that a person from one culture might not even think to consider.

          Do you think this is something that could somehow be encouraged by changes in website/discussion group mechanisms?

          One thing that I have often noticed is how I can be exposed to one situation and have a realization that some aspect of that situation help me see a completely unrelated situation in a different light. This would be somewhat akin to your comment about taking a walk at an unknown place even though I take it that you meant that in the literal sense of actually taking a walk to change the scenery and way you are looking at something.

          Thanks for your comments!
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        Aug 2 2012: Thanks to you, Mark, for sharing your idea!

        I think TED is already a good example for an international discussion group and this is one of the reasons why I like to come here at times. It is here as you said, were I can meet people from different cultures which give me a different view on things which I would not have seen by myself or stimulated by my fellow citizens.

        What you descibed that one situation may change a complete unrelated situation as well, happens to me too. Sometimes it takes a while for this new perspective to settle in, sometimes it happens instantaneously. I think the reason for this is, that we are not the same anymore caused by the first 'change' and this therefore enables us to give new importance to our 'old' knowledge and to sort it anew.

        To me this is the most vital part of 'life long learning' and I can only hope to stay open for it as long as I walk on this planet.

        I also think that this 'international' exchange should start as early at age as possible, and I wish we would spread school exchange programs more widely, more global and more often than we do today.

        As much as I know the internet already helped to establish an active exchange in between partner schools worldwide and all modern web based social sites like facebook and co. may help to link also the people of different nations much better and more intense in friendship than our diplomats will ever be able to archive with their given resources and objectives.

        Well, we'll see...
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    Aug 2 2012: So, Mr. Gump, do I understand your question correctly? You are asking if we are asking the right question? Based on your abstract I think you have asked the wrong question. You should have asked: "Are we ANSWERING the right question?" Thank you!
    • Aug 2 2012: Mr. Long, I suppose my question could be framed as ANSWERING the right question just as much as it could be ASKING the right question. I guess you have to ask the right questions before you can expect to get the right answers. What I am proposing is to find ways of helping to ensure people don't get stuck and become satisfied that ALL the pertinent questions or viewpoints have been explored before they actually have been.

      I think it is important to note I originally stated I thought it was important to ask the right questions (note the plural) not the right question (note the singular). I'll admit I did pose that statement both ways but, to clarify, I am really saying how can we help to ensure the right questionS are asked so we get the best chance of getting the best and most useful answerS. (I edited my original post to make all occurrences of my statement plural. :) )
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    Aug 2 2012: There are lots of right questions. One reason conversations get side-tracked is that many people believe the issues most important to them never get discussed enough and so they take any reasonable opportunity to steer discussion in that direction.
    We have probably all gotten a little frustrated sometimes when we are trying to get a group to wrestle with an issue that has been under-examined that someone will jump in to steer the conversation over to some topic that is discussed all the time and on which there is a widely accepted position that people simply love to hear affirmed over and over. (It's often a cynical view about someone else:))
    In conversation in a community the best way of keeping conversations on track is to be aware of how easy it is to veer off and to accept as a ground rule that it isn't quite fair to divert legitimate discussion always to one's particular interests.
    But you mention another sort of asking the wrong question that is much more about insight than good ground rules for community. Specifically it is often not a trivial thing to step back and think through what the right questions are to ask.
    It takes consciencious critical thinking to do that, a disposition that is different from what drives the more common light banter about policy issues that arises often in public or in the press.
    • Aug 2 2012: Fritzie, I am right with you on your comments. It is unfortunate that much discussion is driven by the speaker's agenda. Yes, I am trying to help create environments and methods to guide discussions in ways to allow a re-centering on the base topic when the conversation's participants divert to non-centrist discussion threads.

      I agree that many, if not most, people tend to have their own favored position and they will often guide a discussion in a way to support that position. I don't mind having varied and even opposing viewpoints expressed. What I am trying to overcome is having those viewpoints be the only ones considered.

      I'm afraid that many people are not very capable of taking that step back you mentioned. It does take a person with intellectual integrity to be willing to "risk" going against the grain and approaching an ongoing conversation from a different angle. What I'm trying to figure out is a way to help facilitate this type of behavior.
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        Aug 2 2012: I work in that area as well, of facilitating discourse.
        I don't think it is accurate that people are not capable of stepping back. It is more about disposition to question in an open-minded way and perhaps training than it is about ability.
        • Aug 2 2012: That is interesting that you work in the area of facilitating discourse. I suspect that must be fascinating and at time frustrating work!

          I didn't mean to indicate that there weren't many people with the ability to take a re-framing action during a discussion but rather that there weren't as many as it would be nice to have that are willing then commit to doing so. Of course, there are a great number of people who really don't have the mental ability to re-focus their look at issues. Sadly, those people just need to pretty much be discounted and ignored.

          Having ulterior motives is probably one of the biggest roadblocks to people to be open to new and fresh perspectives. As your earlier post indicated, people will try to get their viewpoint affirmed. What should be considered most important in holding a discussion is to try to come up with the most beneficial viewpoint and possible solution to issues rather than trying to get one's particular viewpoint accepted. This is somewhat against human nature I suppose.

          How can we build discussion websites that actively encourage such openness and willingness to explore multiple viewpoints through asking questions that prompt better answers? Moderators can shut down flame wars but I'm looking for something to encourage more fruitful discussions.
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        Aug 2 2012: I do not agree with your statement "of course there are a great number of people who really don't have the mental ability to refocus their look at issues. Sadly those people just need to pretty much be discounted and ignored."

        I believe everyone without specific developmental impairment is capable of critical thinking and that none needs to be discounted or ignored.
        • Aug 2 2012: Hmmm, unfortunately I have to stand by my statement of belief in this matter. I have run across far too many people in my lifetime who just don't seem to have the ability to analyze situations rationally and come to reasonable conclusions. To me that is just a fact of life.

          Of course, I could be wrong! :-)
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    Aug 2 2012: Side-tracked discussions in real life is really hard to avoid, when the topic is good. However, I think an online thread does a better job of capturing everyone's ideas and thoughts. You can even have nested comments to the thread too.

    It's hard for real life discussions to really support not getting sidetracked because of its extremely linear nature. Not to mention, when you get an idea, you want to interrupt what the guy was saying when he was trying to make a point. So again, it has more to do with the linearity of normal speech.

    I think we have the right questions, it's just that in a real life debate, some questions aren't heard as opposed to the heard ones.

    But in speech, it's much easier to hold a conversation as opposed to using a thread on a forum, but threads discuss the topics much more in detail with its multi-linear structure.
    • Aug 2 2012: James, yes there are definite differences between online threads and in person conversations. I think that is one of the reasons online discussions have become so popular and useful. I'd like to be able to take the online experience one step further with methods to help ensure as many options and viewpoints as possible are discussed.

      It is unfortunate that real life discussion do seem to be fairly linear, as you said, because they do tend to go down one path. That is the beauty of multiple participants with multiple viewpoints in and online conversation. How would you suggest enhancing online discussions to help promote this richer wealth of ideas and viewpoints?
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        Aug 2 2012: Hmm, I think online discussions have been pretty good in terms of the format. Threads are capable of covering a topic more thoroughly due to that multi-linear structure.

        I think the best enhancement for online discussions is really to ask better questions, and make sure we cover each question. Questions, especially good ones, are the ones that make you think and generate richer ideas. And more questions/ideas attract more viewpoints. In terms of the thread format, it's satisfactory at the moment. The thread format also forces people to read the whole post, not interrupt someone before they finish explaining their points.
        • Aug 2 2012: I liked what Jan-Bernd Pauli had to say in his comments to this conversation. Maybe we need to help online thread conversationalists be able to leave their 'comfort zone' so they take a fresh and different look at issues. How could this be done?

          I agree with you that good questions are the ones that make people think and generate richer ideas. The trick is how to get those "good questions" asked. Maybe conversation moderators could take a more active part in conversations and challenge participants to justify their positions or challenge participants to support an opposing position as an exercise in debate. What do you think?
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        Aug 2 2012: So to get them off their comfort zone and to somehow get those good questions asked, I think you just need to attract those curious-minded guys.

        So, I guess this also depends on the topics of discussion, but if they're anything like Ted, then all you need to do is just get a bunch of people who asks a bunch of questions. Maybe, get more kids involved. They come up with the best questions imo.

        I think, as long as you bring in a small number of curious people into that community, then things get interesting.

        There could be better ways, that I'm not thinking about today hmm...
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        Aug 2 2012: Ok I'm just thinking of good topics here.

        Maybe there should be a lot of topics on philosophy, and moral value.

        Topics on Current Events and Politics.

        Discussions on movies/books/music and the "deeper" meanings of things.

        Curious Science questions.

        What's gonna happen in the future?

        What would we do once we find other intelligent life forms out there?
        • Aug 2 2012: James, I love your topic ideas! That level of subject matter would certainly prompt some interesting discussions.

          Now to take this whole conversation to another, deeper level, I would posit not only how can we get a rich enough mix of viewpoints and questions explored but how can we move from the discussion to the action phase. In other words, how can we get people and organizations to not stop at the discussion stage but take the conclusions reached and put them into real world actions. Certainly TED is a forerunner in this type of work. What else can be done?
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        Aug 3 2012: Hmm, that's a pretty good question...

        So let's say, there are good discussions going on, and finally there have been good solutions to those big questions eventually. So how can we translate those good solutions into action?

        As of right now, it just seems like by luck, someone stumbles over the topic and thinks, hey that's a great solution, I'll do it!

        I had an idea somewhere on here, about a Social Media Platform for Ideas. Basically, I was trying to come up with a system that gives thinkers/innovators livable income, while their ideas generated have become crowd-sourced for anyone to use.