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Designing powerful questions

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 26 March 2020



Designing powerful questions
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 237
Posted DateThursday 26 March 2020 18:07 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen

This is an interesting article The Coronavirus Is A Defining Moment For Your Company: Here Are Questions You Should Be Asking that looks at how to work in an increasingly complex world through the lens of the Cynefin Framework.

I have written an extensive post in my blook on designing questions and a problem I have with the article are the questions they suggest, such as this one:
"As the coronavirus takes its toll on business as usual, what must we all do to keep our people motivated and connected, to maintain relationships with customers and add value, to maximize existing revenue while finding new revenue opportunities, and to make advances on strategic imperatives that might otherwise languish?"
The question is in fact several questions and is laden with assumptions and possible answers.

When designing a conversation, the very first question that should be asked is, "What is the purpose of this conversation?"

The purpose could be one of many things, for example, to make a better sense of what's going on; to make better meaning (the implications of what is going on); it could be to make decisions or it could be much more specific.

Once you've decided on the purpose of the conversation, you can set about crafting the question. To my mind, the question should be a single question and should not have any in-built assumptions. It should not lead the participants. So, I might replace the above question with four questions and four separate conversations.
  1. What's going on?
  2. What does this mean for us? (What are the implications?)
  3. Do we need to do anything? If so, what are our possibilities?
  4. What decisions do we need to make?
Simple, with no built-in assumptions and thus not constraining or channelling the participants in a particular direction.

Which approach do you think is the more powerful or does it depend on the context?

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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