The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

On the art of asking questions

Hal Gregersen dedicated his life to the simple act of questioning. He sees that we’ve been born with a gift of inquisitive creativity and believes that we can sustain it if we never stop questioning.

Something that happens if we continuously ask questions is that we’ll learn more about the relationship between the questions and their answers. Asking better questions gives us more possibilities to see beyond the status quo.

Having worked for twenty-five years with Clayton Christensen and writing the Innovator’s DNA with him, Hal also learned from the questions Clay asked. In an interview with Clay, described in his latest newsletter, Hal describes the importance Clay gave to the surrounding conditions of an individual.

To understand how things evolved as they did, Christensen would start his inquiry with “What caused it to go well?” or “Why isn’t it going well?”. What he didn’t allow himself to ask if it was the person that caused something to succeed or fail. Instead, he would ask about the factors outside of the person causing them to make the decisions they made.

What’s interesting about this way to inquire about success or failure, is that it removes the ready-made focus on the individual’s ego without taking the person out of the equation. It’s still connected with the person making the decisions but it is searching for the way the person makes their decisions. How they evaluate the external factors, which ones they use and see, and how they connect them with the decision they need to make. It allows the conversation and the inquiry to stay on task. And it leaves room for the person making the decisions.


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