This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action (CEM)

What one thing could you provide your colleagues that would enable them to be more effective?

Following on the Art of Hosting session a couple weeks ago, I wanted to read The Art of Powerful Questions (catalyzing insight, innovation, and action) by Eric E Vogt, Juanita Brown and David Isaacs (published 2003).  

Have you ever felt that you posed the wrong question in a meeting?  Maybe it seemed like the logical question to ask at the time until you got limited or no response.  Do you ever wonder how to structure a more powerful question to get richer, more meaningful feedback from your participants?

I've known for a long time that the questions one asks - or the way those questions are framed - elicit very different responses.  The Dale Carnegie training talks about using open-ended questions or questions about specific topics, usually in the context of getting to know people.  Classically, consulting is all about asking the right questions.  And I have noted that asking questions geared toward getting people to think and reveal their underlying reasoning are much more powerful.  The work I have been doing with Theory of Constraints - based consulting is tied up with building up the logic behind questions in order to bring out better knowledge from the people involved.

The authors provide a framework around idea of powerful questions: Each question has a linguistic construction element (who, what, when, where, why), its scope, and the underlying (and unspoken) assumptions.  Acknowledging and understanding each of these helps put together those powerful questions.  Of course, any of this only makes sense in the particular context in which you find yourself.  I enjoyed the few examples they provided - even simple work changes provoke vastly different conversations, for example:

How can we be the best in the world?

How can we be the best for the world?

My mind connects this with the idea of experimentation.  Scientists run experiments to push the limits of their knowledge - it's the boring experiments that tell us what we already know.  Questions can do the same thing - they are essentially experiments and probes of what people are thinking and seeing in their worlds.  The questions (and the answers) include all sorts of knowledge, and if we can help draw out that knowledge with powerful questions, all the better!

Can a button fix this problem?

The Art of Hosting - teaser