The Questioning Technique Every Student Should Know

The new world of work is very different from the one that ushered in the Industrial Age.


Rebecca Mott

3 years ago | 2 min read

Instead of teaching children the answer, we should teach them the questions.

Early in my career, I was mentored in a most amazing way by my boss. I was assigned to a project. I was young and precocious-confident in the planning skills that had already brought me success in school and my career up until that point. I am sure my boss saw my naivete. He had more than a couple of decades of deep experience in project management. Here is what he told me as I remember it:

“Rebecca, the best way to manage a project is to start with five basic questions. You should always know who, what, when, where, why, and how. Remember five ‘W’s’ and one ‘H.’

I didn’t learn until much later in my career that more than 70% of all projects fail. I didn’t quite understand way back then that there is a BIG difference between achieving individual success and creating team success.

That first project didn’t go so well. Unfortunately, I used an individual approach and ended up alienating most of my team. I got the job done, but it was at much personal expense. I ended up doing most of the work myself.

After receiving additional training in project management, the approach that my boss shared with me kept showing up repeatedly. As I reflect on it now, I wonder, “Why didn’t they teach me that in school?”

The new world of work is very different from the one that ushered in the Industrial Age. As people left farms to go work in factories, the skills they possessed by managing farms were somewhat transferrable. And most companies invested time and money to train the incoming workforce.

Fast forward to the 1940s, and the trend began to shift. The age of science and engineering miracles demanded a new kind of worker-one who could think on their own. While school systems continued to produce students ready for a manufacturing environment, one that was structured and led by expert managers, the demand for “knowledge workers” slowly rose. Manufacturing plants in America began to disappear. But we didn’t see the effects of it until early in this century.

Between 2000 and 2010, US manufacturing experienced a nightmare. The number of manufacturing jobs in the United States, which had been relatively stable at 17 million since 1965, declined by one-third in that decade, falling by 5.8 million to below 12 million in 2010 (returning to just 12.3 million in 2016).
William B. Bonvillian
Lecturer at MIT and Advisor to MIT’s Industrial Performance Center

And here we are in the Information Age where technology and innovation are primary drivers of business success. Companies are no longer creating mass training programs. Workers must be ready to work when they enter the door. This has driven companies away from hiring inexperienced workers who can’t understand how to work in this new environment. The result is many college graduates who can’t seem to get their foot in the door of corporations in need of ready-to-work talent.

All of this is important to understand because it is the backdrop for why we must teach our children differently. The 21st century is demanding a new kind of worker.

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Rebecca is a trainer, speaker, writer, and Certified Professional Coach with a mission to support companies who want to infuse innovation into their culture. Learn more at


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Rebecca Mott

Trainer-Speaker-Coach and thought leader challenging the status quo to CHANGE! | |







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