5 Big Questions: SAM KNOWLES


What are the best questions to ask, and when?

How can we be more curious?

And why should we still heed advice from Socrates?

In this week’s 5 Big Questions interview we talk to data-storyteller, experimental psychologist and marketing man DR SAM KNOWLES.



  • Twitter: @SamKnowles

Known for:

  • Sam Knowles on data, stories and asking better questions

    Founder/Director – Insight Agents

  • Host – Small Data Forum podcast
  • Former Group Director (Strategic Planning) – WCG Europe
  • Former UK Managing Director – Echo Research
  • Author – Narrative By Numbers
  • Author – How To Be Insightful
  • Author – Asking Smarter Questions

The 5 Big Questions:

Measuring change How do you measure the impact of what you do?

Ready for anything - future proofingHow should people/businesses be preparing for the future?

Skills, talent & opportunityHow do we build the workforce we need for that future?

Embedded innovationHow do you use creativity to solve problems?

Bold connections, collaborationHow do you collaborate?

Key quotes:

“We are rewarded by answering. We live in an analytical culture and we are rewarded by providing answers — and I wanted to subvert that.”

“I’ve stopped, by the way, this is the last book. Four is a list and two isn’t enough but three is ‘friends, Romans’, countrymen’, the power of three.”

“Asking questions, start from a position that Socrates took: ‘all that I know is that I know nothing’. You start from a position of ignorance and you park your assumptions and your biases and prejudices at the door.” 

“The most satisfying projects tend to be those that have the most chance of having impact.”

“If you can tell people convincingly in an evidence-based way, the impact that you have had, then you’ll get more money!”

“By the time they are five, children have asked something like 40,000 ‘why’ type questions and then progressively school and the world of work, and university, will beat that out of them and will say ‘we need answers, give us answers!’”

“There are some organisations — commercial and non-commercial — that are getting better at harnessing and socialising the institutional memory.”

“I’m not a failure fetishist.”

“Actively rewarding questioning is important. It’s about curiosity for all time, rather than just curiosity for the thing we’re working on today.” 

“Be more foxy and less hedgehog-y”

“To move from ‘so what’ to ‘now what’ you need to ‘fill the hopper’ — between all of our ears, the world’s most brilliant bottom-up, top-down supercomputer exists, but the engine does need fuel.”

This episode was recorded in May 2022

Interviewer: Richard Freeman for always possible

Editor: CJ Thorpe-Tracey for Lo Fi Arts


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