Outcome-Seeking Questions

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The Pragmatic nature of some questions

Not all 'answer-seeking questions' exist within the domain of theory or 'pure' logic. Some philosophers have pointed out that answering a question may, in effect, be a speech act. In other words, the bodily act of utterance (or, say, signing a document) could also be construed as an action. For example, although the (answer-seeking) question "Will you honour and uphold him/her, and your commitment to one another for all of your days together?" invites a simple affirmative answer, the respondent's reply is likely to constitute a legally binding change in her/his marital status.

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Going beyond theory

Whereas - in a minimum response - an answer-seeking question invites the respondent merely to speak, or to write, something the outcome-seeking question calls for more than this. Indeed, in order to satisfy its minimum requirements, the respondent may need to include evidence of their experience, or expertise, and to offer practical recommendations. Beyond its minimum requirements an outcome-seeking question may, even, operate like a mandate for practical actions.

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Questions within the domain of design

If they can be classed as 'problems' at all, most design tasks are wicked problems. In other words, they cannot be expressed as a question in which there can be a single, clear answer. Indeed, there is seldom a predictable - i.e. 'stable', 'durable' or 'certain' - answer to any design-related question because the success of a given design is always emergent and unpredictable.

Some outcome-seeking questions

There is quite a narrow range of possibilities within 'outcome-seeking' questions. This is because most of the information is focused on the nature of the task implied by the question, and its breadth or specificity.

ExampleLikely minimum outcome
How might we address issue x?invites respondent to reflect on an actual situation
How can we achieve x?invites the respondent to formulate a specific plan
How can I make this product work better? grey-spacer.png invites the respondent to specify workable methods

Of course - all of these outcome-seeking questions contain subordinate answer-seeking questions because they imply that these aims can be fulfilled. For example, the question 'How can I make this product work better?' implies that it can be made to work better.