Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Gedanken Questions


Albert Einsten used Gedankenexperimente or thought experiments to come up with his theory of relativity. They are conceptual and not physical experiments where you frame a hypothesis and work through its consequences based on initial assumptions. It helped give birth to most of 20th Century physics and its most famous principles (e.g., Schrödinger’s Cat). It’s powerful because it frees your thinking from the constraints of the physical world, where we may not have the instruments (yet) to measure the necessary reactions or ingredients to fuel the experiment.

It is with similar appreciation that I embraced my friend’s hypothetical questions he injects in our conversations. He would ask, “So, do you think the worst day of your life has happened yet?” on our walk to dinner. My first reaction to his questions is, “Hm… let me think about that.”

Here are some more:

What would you do, if you didn’t have to work?

What positive qualities did you get from each of your parents?

I would refer to them as J Questions, after his name, and look forward to his visits anticipating new J Questions. Of course, these types of questions have existed long before… from “What are your 10 desert albums/CDs?” to “What would your last supper be?” but my friend credits his best friend who seem to come up with ones that you can really plunge into and the manner with which he sprinkles them into their conversations.

It’s tough to come up with ones that reveal something of the respondents, because interesting questions do not necessarily yield the most interesting answers (which is why it’s difficult to come up with interview questions for hiring employees, as Google confesses). “What superhero power would you pick?” might sound exciting but the answers may not be.

I’ve started collecting them. Another friend once asked me, “What would you say to a 10 year younger self?” I was so intrigued by the question (for me but also why he would ask that and how he would answer) that I posted it on Facebook. That elicited the most number of comments at the time, but more telling was that people who didn’t usually comment on  or “Like”d  my post participated. The answers were revealing.

It is no wonder that a psychologist has created a list of questions for rapidly creating intimacy.

What J Questions would you pose your partner? Your friends? Your family? About your work/business? A whole new world may open up.


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This entry was posted on April 10, 2015 by in Culture, Management, Psychology and tagged , , .
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