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Using questions to create doorways

I continue to consider what it means to crack the cognitive egg. Critical thinking is essential to creating new neural pathways. Questions are a tool to stimulate critical thinking. Questions can be trivial or complex.

In an organization, trivial questions may sound like:

  • Who is in charge?
  • How many departments do you have?
  • How often do you have an all-hands meeting?
  • What is your mission statement?

On the other hand, complex questions are meant to create dialogue and discussion. They provoke people to search for the answer and learn along the way. They stimulate other important questions. They can’t be answered once-and-for-all, but keep showing up over and over again. They require re-thinking assumptions and prior lessons.

Here are the above questions revised to increase their complexity and stimulate critical thinking:

  • How does your organization define leadership? Who in your organization demonstrates those leadership characteristics?
  • If you could draw a picture of how your organization divides up and shares responsibilities, what would it look like? Do you see any patterns? How has this picture changed over time?
  • What are the formal and informal ways communication happens in your organization? What are the benefits and weaknesses of the formal and informal communication methods?
  • How does your definition of leadership, the way you manage responsibilities, and communicate say about the core values of your organization? What is significant about the values of your organization?

A final question: How do the answers to these questions fit with what you thought the answers were yesterday?

I close with a quote:

It is easy to ask trivial questions . . . . It is also easy to ask impossibly difficult questions. The trick is to find the medium questions that can be answered and that take you somewhere. – Jerome Bruner in Understanding by Design, 2005, p. 105.

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