Questions are better than answers

I once attended a seminar on how to help people deal with difficult situations. It was taught by experienced therapists and attended by others who, like me, often struggle with what to say when friends or family are going through hard times.

One of the key principles of good counseling surprised my logical and practical approach to handling advice: “Questions are better than answers.”

If you think about it, this makes complete sense. The most creative solutions to problem always start by asking questions — perhaps questions that the rest of us aren’t asking.

We have brainstorming techniques that we use at Maxwell that start by asking questions. How might we make mortgages less painful? What if you never had to remind a borrower for documents and information? How might we make your challenging borrowers respond like super organized, type A borrowers? These questions help us build good software and solve the problems faced by loan officers.

The top originators are experts at asking the right questions. They use questions to understand their clients’ needs, desires, and preferences. They also use questions to uncover potential trouble areas for underwriting. Asking the right questions helps to separate the best originators from the newbies.

Like many people, I interact with artificial intelligence on a daily basis. I’ll ask Alexa “what’s the weather” before I head to the office. I’ll ask Siri to text my wife while I’m driving. I’ll ask Google “what time it is in Sydney?”

Artificial intelligence is becoming good at answering questions, but it still has a long way to go before it asks the right questions. Way back in 1964, Pablo Picasso astutely judged the computer saying, “Computers are useless. They only give you answers.”

“Computers are useless. They only give you answers.” — Pablo Picasso

The value of good questions is one of the reasons we believe humans will always play an important role in the mortgage origination process. Even in a world with a fully digital mortgage or complete mortgage automation, the most successful originators will be the ones that ask the right questions of their clients.

Kevin Kelly, author of The Inevitable, discusses the benefits of questions:

A good question is not concerned with the correct answer.

A good question cannot be answered immediately.

A good question challenges existing answers.

A good question is one you badly want answered once you hear it, but had no inkling you cared before it was asked.

A good question creates a new territory of thinking.

A good question reframes its own answers.

A good question is the seed of innovation in science, technology, art, politics, and business.

A good question is a probe, a what-if scenario.

A good question skirts on the edge of what is known and not known, neither silly nor obvious.

A good question cannot be predicted.

A good question is the sign of an educated mind.

A good question is one that generates many other good questions.

A good question may be the last job that a machine learns to do.

A good question is what humans are for.

So in the world of the digital mortgage, embrace inquiry as your secret sauce and the huge advantage you have over Alexa, Siri and Google. Connect with your clients on a human level and understand their situation and goals and remember that questions are better than answers.

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