One of my favorite stories from innovator and writer, Tom Wujec, is about Rembrandt’s, The Night Watch.
When the painting was restored and returned to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, the curators performed a remarkably simple experiment.
They asked visitors to submit questions about the painting. Then the staff prepared answers to over 50 questions and ranked the questions according to popularity. Some of the questions surprised the curators -- has the painting ever been forged? Are there mistakes in the painting? Other questions focused on more traditional artistic issues: Why did Rembrandt paint the subject? Who were the people depicted in the painting? What techniques did Rembrandt pioneer in this particular work?
In a room next to the gallery, the curators papered the walls with these questions and answers. Visitors to the museum had to pass through this room before entering the gallery.
The result was very enlightening. The average length increased from six minutes to over half an hour. Visitors alternated between reading questions and answers and examining the painting. The questions helped them create richer ideas about the painting and see the work from a powerfully different perspective.
Wujec comments that the “questions put visitors in a ready-to-learn state of mind by stimulating curiosity.
How might you use questions to create better experiences? What questions haven’t you asked about something familiar? What kinds of questions might bring a new perspective to what you’re currently doing?
Thanks Tom for another great story.