October 09, 2020
featured

The Power of Building Communities with Questions

topics: articles, questions
Rosie Sherry
We live in a world where we expect and demand answers. People come searching for answers and blueprints, but leave disappointed when they can’t replicate the success of what someone else has succeeded in.

People will often offer out answers and solutions. Pitching out the dream, and often selling stuff that doesn’t really end up having the intended value. The reality is, in most situations in life, what works for someone else just won’t work for you.

What you need is not the answers that they have, but the questions you should be asking to help you find YOUR answer.

I can’t think of a better place to pose questions other than in communities. More than one head is always better than one. Ok, maybe not always, but it most likely will be if you have a general faith and trust in the other heads involved. 😊


The beauty of questions in community building


It took me a long time to come around to see the beauty in questions when building communities. It’s such a simple yet eye opening concept.

I actually feel stupid for it taking the time it did. Duh Rosie. Oh well.

Of course it seems obvious, especially when online forums are often based on people asking questions. It definitely feels kind of like a ‘duh’ moment for me.

But (to my defence!) contrasting it with the what society has all too often become - a platform for the loudest voices that can be hard to not admire and get sucked into. The voices that offer tempting and quick answers. The voices that can blind and bias you to other, often very important, things. The voices that don’t lead you to the action that you need to take in your life.

When you are up against these (powerful) voices, questions seem like a much harder, unclear and unattractive journey to follow.

Asking questions in community means you are all teaching and coaching one another, often without even realising it. The simple act of asking something can transform someone’s perspective.

This is the core beauty behind questions.


Different world views and encouraging open mindsets


What I love about communities are the different world views, experiences and opinions that come into play. We all have different life experiences. Often unshared until an opportunity arises, normally in the form of a question.

For example, I’ve built a relatively successful business, yet I still often struggle to come up with good answers in forum posts at Indie Hackers. I am always learning and one can never know everything related to building a business, we all usually have something to add.

I now refer to my ‘community building time’ at Indie Hackers as an intensive Indie MBA. I have learned so much, by being there with an open mind (almost) every single day.

Here Louis Nicholls made me this certificate as a joke (and as an indirect request). 🤣

It is not uncommon for someone to turn around and say something that gets me thinking, researching, going down rabbit holes and then often I end up changing my mind in something I thought I was pretty set on doing. 🤷🏽‍♀️

Adopting an open mindset in any (professional) community is pretty core to building it up into a positive place to be. It gives opportunity to people and voices that might never speak up.


Sometimes they just need to see the questions


Sometimes people just need to see the question to become enlightened.

When people see questions it often opens up doors of curiosity, they’ll start thinking things like:

  • why is this question being asked?
  • is this something I know about?
  • is this something I should be learning?
  • why do I not know about this?
  • is it important for me?
  • am I able to help?

Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if the responses are any good. Just the act of seeing the questions will open up people’s minds to holes of in their knowledge and understanding.

A big part of a community builders job is to search for the questions that need to be asked. This seems easy, but it is not. It is not rockets science, but it definitely takes time and have the need to be constantly learning about what your community needs to be learning, sharing and talking about.

For me, as a community builder at Indie Hackers, I:

  • am constantly curious
  • take notes constantly
  • the notes can be ideas that I should take away and turn into questions
  • or they can be questions that come to me
  • I source my ideas from everywhere constantly - life experiences, forum posts, Twitter discussions, news items, podcasts, books - I am basically always looking for ideas of questions
  • There should be no shortage of question ideas, if there are I would question your commitment to the community
  • Asking questions creates a never ending loop for ideas for new questions - this is especially true if people are responding to the questions. Take those responses and turn them into other questions!
  • Questions that you ask can appear anywhere, I post them on our forum, but I post them on Twitter too. The point is to get them talking and seeing the questions.
  • Sometimes I will write more answer type posts, but mostly I end up asking questions!

Answers close down discussions


Answers close down discussions. Questions open them up, the possibilities become endless.

We ask questions not necessarily to get to an answer, but to open up a new future of new ideas and possibilities. Our mind starts going off to different places, seeking new solutions and ideas. We start connecting dots that we never thought were possible.

This doesn’t mean that answers (advice, articles, experience reports, etc) aren’t helpful. Often they are.

But look for the questions you should be asking yourself in those answers. And as a community builder your job is to look for those questions for your people, then find ways to ask them.


Always be listening


As a community leader you'll find me asking questions more than giving out advice. I have experience, but I don't necessarily have the answers.

It’s ok not to have the answers. Trust that your community will often have them.

When you see me or the Indie Hackers social accounts asking questions it's because we want to help you think about the questions you should be asking yourself so that you can discover new things and come to your own conclusions.

Having this focus on 'questions' has given me a new sense of focus. I listen constantly. And take notes. Now whenever I read anything from the IH community, or anything business related I write down ideas for questions. It is an engrained habit.

🙏Thanks for reading, as part of this questions journey I will be starting a collection of questions (on my Notion resource) to help inspire my readers, stay tuned.

—Rosie Sherry