Skill Level Beginner
- Great solutions are often a direct result of great questions. If you learn to ask great questions, you can channel the collective wisdom of the people you work with. Asking insightful questions is also a way for you to gain more visibility. I was asked to attend a meeting recently about a topic that I don't know very much about. I didn't have any content expertise to lend to the conversation, so I could've ended up just sitting there silently like a lump on a log, for 90 minutes.
Instead, I tapped into the following four question types, and still made a valuable contribution to the discussion. The first type of question you can ask is the Research question. Research questions ask: What is happening? What's the observable data? What are the facts? Next up are the Experience questions. These tap into a person's background and past experiences. Third, Imaginative questions.
These ask people to consider perfect worlds, or alternative ways of understanding an issue. And finally, Decisional questions ask: What's next? So when I was asked to participate in that meeting, which was about why university students opt to live in apartments, instead of dorms, I asked the Research Questions: What are national trends for universities our size? Are we above or below that average? What do exit interviews with students tell us? The experts in the room could cite credible sources of research, that helped us think through the issue.
However, I knew there was another type of wisdom in that room: the wisdom of life experience. So I asked Experiential Questions, such as: Did you live in a dorm or an apartment when you were in school? What was your experience like? What did you love or hate about dorm life? These Questions got us some great insights about problems with dorm life, but we also needed solutions. So I asked the Imaginative Questions: What would be an ideal living situation for college students? If we could create a perfect environment that met all of their needs, what would that look like? As you can imagine, the group dreamt up some pretty crazy ideas in that discussion, but that's okay, because the creativity, sparked some realistic options.
Finally, if you're the team leader, you need to make sure the discussion, turns into action. The director of this group wrapped up the meeting with these Decisional Questions: Which of the ideas discussed today can we implement? How should we prioritize these ideas that we think might work? Now you'll notice that there's one blank column left in the table; that's for you. Think of an agenda item that will be discussed in your next meeting.
Write at least one question you could ask in each of those four categories. Take them with you to the meeting, and spark some great discussion.