From Bill Gates’ description of the first time he met Warren Buffett:
I have to admit, when I first met Warren, the fact that he had this framework was a real surprise to me. I met him at a dinner my mother had put together. On my way there, I thought, “Why would I want to meet this guy who picks stocks?” I thought he just used various market-related things—like volume, or how the price had changed over time—to make his decisions. But when we started talking that day, he didn’t ask me about any of those things. Instead he started asking big questions about the fundamentals of our business. “Why can’t IBM do what Microsoft does? Why has Microsoft been so profitable?” That’s when I realized he thought about business in a much more profound way than I’d given him credit for.
It’s striking that Bill Gates identified Buffett’s brilliance from the questions he asked, not from statements or assertions. Note also that Warren Buffett’s questions were open ended, something Mark Suster advocates. And, in Bill Gates words, they were “big questions”.
Asking great questions is a skill, and often doesn’t come naturally. I’m particularly bad at it. So in discussions inside Seeking Alpha, I try to step back from making assertions, to articulating the question which the assertion was supposed to answer. Someone else may come up with a better solution to the problem you’re trying to solve, but you won’t know if you don’t ask them.