There are many skills that are imbibed during formative years and years of study. The one skill that perhaps will stand in great stead is that of asking good questions!
For it is in the asking of questions that answers emerge. For many years I thought of questions and questioning to be a prerogative of teachers. Which changed one day, when upon asking a few questions in a chemistry class, my teacher asked me to think up of five more questions!
I was reminded of that incident reading ‘Teaching Students to Ask their own Questions’ in the Harvard Education Letter.
The process of teaching undergoes a fundamental change when students are entrusted with the idea of seeking out questions that would enable them to search for answers. Automatically, the responsibility for ‘learning’ shifts to the ‘learner’ and away from the ‘instructor’.
The beauty of questions is the space it creates for ‘exploration’. And exploration is a function of wonder! Developing an acumen for asking the right question, is furthering the prowess of exploration and often leading to a choice set for action.
The link quoted above introduces you to a step by step process called, the ‘Question Formulation Technique’ or QFT. This technique is supposed to help students learn how to produce, improve upon and strategise on how to use the questions they come up with.
Step 1: Teachers Design a Question Focus
Step 2: Students Produce Questions
Step 3: Students Improve Their Questions
Step 4: Students Prioritize Their Questions.
Step 5: Students and Teachers Decide on Next Steps.
Step 6: Students Reflect on What They Have Learned.
To see this as an easy set of steps to pursue, will be oversimplifying the approach. For the fundamental nature of relying on ‘questions’ requires a shift in the way a learner approaches a subject. It requires an bigger shift in the way a teacher or a trainer would approach the student as well.
The role of the trainer / teacher, as a facilitator who holds the space for questions to flourish and discussions to take place requires a certain ‘courage’. A willingness to hold the urge to ‘give the answer’ or to prove expertise, and engage with perpetuating a ceaseless exploration! Yet, being very present, encouraging and participatory! And to stimulate wonder!
Its simple ! Asking questions help children stay in control. When they are in control, their interest grows and obviously it has a big positive impact on their learning. Of all the facilitators and trainers who I have worked with, the ones that I have relished working with are ones that left me with more questions than answers at the end of the program !
So is the case with my managers and business leaders.
The case for leaders being teachers was made in this post. An essential (and much under rated) skill in the repertoire of skills, leaders that I have held in high esteem have possessed is the art of asking thought provoking questions, that enable teams to figure out answers!
More often than not, in the quest for giving the right answers we miss the point that the trick is not in the ‘right’ answers. But rather in realising that questions elicit the answers !