Asking the right ones. It is in our nature as human beings to want to understand. To seek and find the truth-of the world around us, each other and ourselves-and questions are the tool we use to accomplish the task. In other words, questions are natural.

They are part of our psyche. Dreams are said to be the answer to a question we have not yet figured out how to ask. Woooooo. Pretty cool. And a little creepy. In fact, I think I heard it on The X-Files.

Anyway, questions are part of our politics and our legal system as well. In the United States, it is not only the right of the citizenry under the Constitution to question the government, it’s our responsibility. Journalists and lawyers alike are charged with finding the truth.

However, in their search for the truth, lawyers are said to never ask a question they don’t know the answer to. Put another way, lawyers ask the wrong question only when they don’t want the right answer. Which leads me to what I believe is one of the more poignant witticisms about questions: If you don’t like the answer, ask a different question.

The saying has been, I believe, wrongly attributed to lazy scientists, politicians and others who hope to frame the questions to meet their answers or conclusions, who look to shape the answers to meet their needs. This attribution has robbed this phrase of its actual sentiment, of its true purpose: a means to motivate us to look past the obvious answers and tackle seemingly unanswerable questions. To seek new and different perspectives by shedding our own experience and bias, (“Oh, no,” you’re saying to yourself…You feel it coming…“He’s not gonna say it, is he”…I know, I know, I hate it too, but…) to think “outside the box.”

It’s not about shaping the answers, or the questions, but addressing what about the answers that doesn’t make sense. To inspire us to look at every angle and develop an answer in which all the pieces fit. We ask the right question, we get the right answer-the truth. That is the difference between success and failure for detectives, lawyers, scientists, researchers and, yes, even engineers and journalists.

This month’s Quality offers a number of perspectives aimed at helping you ask the right questions. See why the industry shouldn’t be asking, “Is FireWire dead?” but rather, “Does FireWire have a relevant place in new vision applications?” And find out the right questions to ask about a turnkey vision system. All of these answers and more are contained in the pages of this month’s Vision & Sensors.

Also, uncover the right, continuing questions you should be asking about your Six Sigma process with “The Secret to Sustaining Six Sigma in Your Organization,” and see why blaming the gage or instrument for incorrect results is often the wrong first conclusion to draw in our September measurement feature.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!