“When was the last time you sat through a meeting and said to yourself, “This is a complete waste of time?”.  Was it yesterday or even a few hours ago?  Why did that gathering feel so tedious?  Perhaps its because the leaders posed the wrong questions at the start of the session.  Or worse yet, maybe they didn’t ask any engaging questions, and as a result, the meeting consisted of boring report-outs or other forms of one-way communication that failed to engage people’s interest or curiosity.”   In their article The Art of Powerful Questions (Vogt, Brown and Isaacs), the authors remind us that Questions open the door to dialogue and discovery.  They are an invitation to creativity and breakthrough thinking.  Questions can lead to movement and action on key issues; by generating creative insights, they can ignite change.

From their article, here is a series of 25 generative questions that stimulate new knowledge and creative thinking in a wide variety of situations.  Look at the questions to stimulate your own thinking about questions related to your own specific situation.  Play.  Use your imagination.

Questions for Focusing Collective Attention on Your Situation

1. What question, if answered, could make the most difference to the future of (your specific situation)

2. What’s important to you about it and why do you care?

3. What draws you/us to this inquiry?

4. What’s our intention here?  What’s the deeper purpose (the big “why”) that is really worthy of our best efforts?

5. What opportunities can you see in this ?

6. What do we know so far/still need to learn about it?

7. What are the dilemmas/opportunities in it?

8. What assumptions do we need to test or challenge here in thinking about it?

9. What would someone who had a very different set of beliefs than we do say about it?

Questions for Connecting Ideas and Finding Deeper Insight

1. What’s taking shape?  What are you hearing underneath the variety of opinions being expressed?

2. What’s in the centre of the table?

3. What’s emerging for you?  What new connections are you making?

4. What had real meaning for you from what you’ve heard?  What surprised you?  What challenged you?

5. What’s missing from this picture so far?  What is it we’re not seeing?  What do we need more clarity about?

6. What’s been your/our major learning, insight or discovery so far?

7. What’s the next level of thinking we need to do?

8. If there was one thing that hasn’t yet been said in order to reach a deeper level of understanding/clarity, what would that be?

Questions That Create Forward Movement

1. What would it take to create change on this issue?

2. What could happen that would enable you/us to feel fully engaged and energized about it?

3. What’s possible here and who cares (rather that ‘what’s wrong and who’s responsible?’)

4. What needs our immediate attention going forward?

5. If our success was completely guaranteed, what bold steps might we choose?

6. How can we support each other in taking the next steps?  What unique contribution can we each make?

7. What challenges might come our way and how might we meet them?

8. What conversation, if began today, could ripple out in a way that created new possibilities for the future?

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