Advantages/Disadvantages of Open and Closed Questions

When you ask a good question you allow the possibility of a good answer, conversely, bad questions will almost always lead to poor answers.

Let’s take a brief look at the relative advantages and disadvantages of open and closed questions, from the point of view of using them in your everyday work interactions, so that you know when each type of question is appropriate.

Advantages of Closed Questions

  • If comparing the answers of several people, then the answers to closed questions are much easier to compare and rate. If the question is closed enough (e.g. multiple choice) then it is even possible to perform a statistical analysis of the answers.
  • They are easy and quick to answer.
  • There will be almost no answers that are difficult to understand.
  • If you so desired, you could use leading closed questions to direct a conversation, for example, using “can you live with this decision?” (closed) rather than, “does everyone agree with this decision?” (open).

Disadvantages of Closed Questions

  • They can force the respondent into an answer they don’t necessarily want to give.
  • This can make the respondent frustrated as they are unable to adequately express their opinion.
  • It can be difficult to determine if someone has misunderstood the question.
  • They don’t often lead to a deeper understanding of the topic in question for the person posing the question.
Advantages/Disadvantages of Open Questions & Closed Questions

Advantages of Open Questions

  • They allow for an infinite array of answers.
  • They allow you to understand the data points and logic that has caused the respondent to form their opinion.
  • They allow you to more deeply understand the topic under discussion.
  • The respondent can feel that they are receiving personal attention and that the proposer is interested in their opinion.

Disadvantages of Open Questions

  • If the group is large it can take a long time to extract answers using open questions.
  • If the group is large you must be careful the group doesn’t fall into groupthink.
  • They can lead to a lot of noise than closed questions. This noise can make it difficult to develop a deep understanding of the reasons behind the issue.
  • They are simply not practical for very large groups.

* Image by Oberazzi