Managing the unknown through questioning

The title of this post comes from the International Foundation for Action Learning , as this week I had my first taste of Action Learning. This is all about groups (or ‘sets’) working together on real problems, using the current knowledge of the group and ‘questioning insight’.

In the session I attended one member of the group described a problem and everyone else wrote down one ‘open’ question about the problem. The person with the problem then answered some of the questions, and these answers sparked more questions from the group. This way, the person with the problem was realising the answers and ideas she already had hidden in her brain.

This gentle, yet powerful, process underlines the importance of asking questions when trying to come up with ideas.

In the book Gamestorming five types of idea sparking questions are outlined:

  1. Opening – to generate ideas/options and provoke thought e.g. What kinds of things do we want to explore? What are the biggest problem areas?
  2. Navigating – to summarise key points and check the group is aligned e.g. Is this helping us to get where we want to go? Are we on track?
  3. Examining – for observation and analysis, to narrow your enquiry and focus on details e.g. What is it made of? Can you give me an example of that?
  4. Experimental – to invoke the imagination and make unlikely connections e.g. What else works like this? If this were an animal, what animal would it be and why?
  5. Closing – to gain commitment and make decisions e.g. How can we prioritise these options? Who is going to do that?

Often people equate questioning with interrogation, but when trying to come up with ideas questioning is about collaboration. Having a group of open people asking open questions around a real problem is a simple, but highly effective, way of finding solutions.

How can you build open and exploring questions into your work?


2 responses to “Managing the unknown through questioning

  1. so good

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