Some lawyers in the patent department at Bell Labs decided to study whether there was an organizing principle that could explain why certain individuals at the Labs were more productive than others. They discerned only one common thread: Workers with the most patents often shared lunch or breakfast with a Bell Labs electrical engineer named Harry Nyquist. It wasn’t the case that Nyquist gave them specific ideas. Rather, as one scientist recalled, “he drew people out, got them thinking.” More than anything, Nyquist asked good questions.
— Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
Did Nyquist open the way to questions, or did those who felt the pull of good questions end up returning to Nyquist?
Bell Labs was never looking for good ideas. There are too many good ideas. What they needed was good problems that opened to good solutions.
It’s really easy to think you are on a quest for answers, but the quest is really for the questions, which open up possibilities you never imagined, choices you never saw.
I know that most people think they are looking for answers and they don’t find many simple answers in me.
But I also know that, like in Harry Nyquist, they always find good questions.