Thursday, January 1, 2015

Books for Coaches - Book Review on Questions

A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger was a highlight of my reading in 2014!

Below is a copy of the notes I took on my iPhone - please excuse the grammatical errors and punctuation issues. The Notes app isn't all that helpful when trying to add different characters or linking information. I've tried to be consistent, however, I'm sure there will be many mistakes!

Chapter Two particularly resonated for me since the "Question Formulation Technique" has such potential for usage in any classroom. However, Chapter Five (questioning for life) also seems helpful for this time of year, when many want to take a closer look at daily routines.... I know there are a few provocative questions that I'll be looking at over the next few days! 

"always the beautiful answer
who asks a more beautiful question."
~ e.e. cummings
• a 4 yr old girls asks 390 questions a day
• Why-What If-How model

Chapter One: The Power of Inquiry
• a naive questioner can sometimes be the best questioner since they challenge status quo
"Questions are the engines of intellect - cerebral machines that convert curiosity into controlled inquiry." ~ David Hackett Fischer
• good questioners tend to be aware of, and quite comfortable with, their own ignorance.
• knowledge is a commodity - easily accessible - value of explicit information is dropping
• must be lifelong learners - become neotenous (biological term that describes the retention of childlike attributes in adulthood)
" Computers are useless - they can only give you answers." ~ Picasso
• the Why stage - first questioning, formulating, and framing the initial question that articulates the challenge at hand, and tries to gain some understanding of the context.
• basic formula is Q + A = I (innovation). Can also be Q - A = P (philosophy)
• Graham Wallace - wrote the classic process of creativity - Preparation, Incubation, Illumination, Implementation.

Chapter Two: Why We Stop Questioning
• a child asks 40 thousand questions between age 2 and 5
• creativity stops because children stop questioning
• Why are we sending kids to school in the first place?
Deborah Meier - Central Park East Schools:
- What might the potential for humans be if we really encouraged that spirit of questioning in children , instead of closing it down?
She developed five learning skills or habits of mind:
1. Evidence: how do we know what's true or false? What evidence counts?
2. Viewpoint: How might this look if we stepped into other shoes, or looked at it from a different direction?
3. Connection: Is there a pattern? Have we seen something like this before?
4. Conjecture: What if it were different?
5. Why does this matter?
Dan Meyer - HS math teacher - TED talk - lesson on how long will it take to fill a water tank?
--he used a visual - video of a water tank filling up agonizingly slowly...students then wonder how long it's going to take...
• class structure determines who will ask questions...upper and middle ask more, lower asks next to none for fear of reprisal, discipline, sticking out, etc
Right Question Institute's "Question Formulation Technique"
-- Ling Se Peet used this with her class for a lesson on torture. She stated, "Torture can be justified." 
-- this opening statement is known as a Q-focus because its purpose is to provide a focal point for generating questions from students.
-- each group's initial task was to come up with as many questions as possible, within a time limit, pertaining to the statement
-- after reviewing a set of rules (write each question down, don't debate or try to answer questions, just keep trying to think of more questions) students start to come at the premise from many angles
-- stage two: change open questions to closed questions and closed questions to open questions
--- ie, Why is torture effective? might be changed to "Is torture effective?"
-- the purpose of this step is to show that a question can be narrowed down in some cases or expanded in others.
-- the way you ask a question yields different results and can lead you in different directions
-- next, students are asked to prioritize their questions: to figure out which three were most important to the discussion to move forward
--- this is the convergent part of questioning - to question effectively, students must learn to analyze their own questions and zero in on ones they would like to pursue further

RQI question focus:
1. Teachers design Question Focus (ie Torture can be justified)
2. Students produce questions (no help from teacher, no answering or debating, write down everything, change statements to questions
3. Students improve their questions - usually asked to pick three favs
4. Students & teacher decide on next steps - for acting on the priorized questions
5. Students reflect on what they have learned
Questioning involves Divergent, Convergent and Metacognitive thinking - these are both subtle and complex...

Chapter Three: The Why, What If, and How of Innovative Questioning
Asking powerful why questions:
• step back
• notice what others miss
• challenge assumptions (including our own)
• gain a deeper understanding of the situation or problem at hand, through contextual inquiry
• question the questions we're asking
• take ownership of a particular question.
-- stepping back can be easier in a different place or situation
-- taking time to reflect and question is essential!
--Robert Burton writes about "the certainty epidemic" - the condition of thinking we know more than we do
-- we don't pay attention well
-- we make judgements in fractions of a second: THIS I'll pay attention to, everything else I'll ignore because (a) it doesn't concern/interest me or (b) I already know about it
• Questioning allows people to synthesize and simplify
• zen principle - shoshin - beginner's mind
• you can do this as an expert by detaching or observing yourself as I you were a third party
• try for vuja de - backwards déjà vu
- Most of us don't observe well or deeply enough, for example:
• 4X4 grid of squares - how many squares do you see? 
The easy answer is 16 - in addition there are nine 2x2 squares, four 3x3 squares and one large 4x4 squares...can even count 30 black squares and 30 white squares....
- point is, there is always another way of looking at it...
- challenger questions: 
"Why should we settle for what currently exists?"
"And why should I believe you when you tell me something can't be done?"
- these are challenger questions!!

Questioning the question:
"Why am I asking why?"
-- ie, the five whys

Open and close the question and vice versa
-- contextual inquiry is about asking questions up close and in context, relying on observation, listening and empathy to guide us toward a more intelligent, and therefore more effective, question.
- to do contextual questioning well you must LISTEN - listening informs questioning.
-- the difference between just asking a question or pursuing it is the difference between flirting with an idea or living with it -- it can be a productive obsession!
• What If?
--in order for our imagination to flourish, there must be an opportunity to see things as other than they are or appear to be. This begins with a simple question: What If? It is a process of introducing something strange and perhaps even demonstrably untrue in our current situation or perspective."
-- connective inquiry is what the What If question encourages
-- also encourages smart recombinations (is Pandora is radio station and search engine)
"A difficult question at night is resolved in the morning when the committee of sleep has worked on it." ~ John Steinbeck (couldn't agree more, John!).
- similarly, taking a walk, going to a museum, etc, is a good way to spark connective thinking
- question: "what if we could not fail?" 
- a what if technique is to create a prototype - a sketch, video, explanation, model, anything that can represent the idea in a preliminary form. 
- share ideas earlier, so others can help with the process!
- use these ideas to try a test-and-learn process BEFORE implementing a whole new idea
- find others who want to answer the same What If questions as you so that you can collaborate.
- don't hoard your beautiful question!

Chapter Four: Questioning in Business
Disruptive innovation - questions of purpose
"What if our company didn't exist?"
"What if we were kicked out of the company, what would the new CEO (coach) do?"
"What should we stop doing?"
What is your tennis ball? - the thing that pulls you as much as a dog chasing a tennis ball...
Often questions are better thought of some.
In "question storming" there are more possibilities - generating fifth to seventy-five questions is best. The group will usually briefly stall at 25 questions - push through this wall!
Then narrow to three (as before)
- HMW - the How Might We questioning framing idea
- rather than using "can we" or "should we", "might we" encourages creativity.
-- the HOW part assumes that there are solutions out there - it provides confidence. MIGHT says we can put ideas out there that might work or might not - either way, it's okay. And the WE  part says we're going to do it together and build on each other's ideas
- should mission statements be mission questions?
*how might we be the best program on the entire continent?
- keep questioning your question statement - does it still make sense?, are we living up to it?, it is growing and as we still moving forward?, are we all in this together?
-- another way of looking a this:
• What are we doing?
• why are we doing it?
• how might we do it better?

How might we create a culture of inquiry?
Be careful of encouraging people to ask questions and then dumping the solution on them, in addition to their regular duties...
Tell people to bring in questions as a part of the interview process 

Chapter Five: Questioning for Life
"Live the questions" ~ Rilke
"What is your sentence?" ~ Daniel Pink
"Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you." ~ David McCullough
• why am I climbing this mountain in the first place?
• what is waiting for me at the top?
• what am I going to do once I get there?
• am I enjoying the climb itself? Should I slow down, speed up?
• what am I leaving behind down below?

Why are you evading inquiry?
• questioning is seen as counter productive. It's the answers that most people are focussed on finding...because people think they will improve life
• the right time for asking fundamental questions never seems to present itself
• knowing the right questions to ask is difficult (so better not to ask at all)
• perhaps most significant: what if we find we have no good answers to the important questions we raise.

Process is key! You don't just need answers...
We have to construct meaning in our lives - better to ask "why should I do X?" "Is it worth my one and effort to do Y?" And even better , "when I look back in five years, which of these options will make the better story?"

If you force yourself to sit with a problem or topic and to try to think of questions you will come up with many. The challenge is to think ABOUT those questions - culling the best ones, improving them and figuring out how you might act on them.
 What if we step back or unplug?
Example of technology free Saturdays...just get to sit with a question rather than looking up an answer...
"Where is my place to withdraw and to think?"
"When is my tech Shabbat?"

Start with what you already have - not by asking questions about what you don't have.
Answer instead, "what am I grateful for?" 
Ask, "what did I love doing as a child?" - the things we loved doing then often still give us pleasure later in life or we can update those things to things we like today.
Ask, "what am I doing when I feel most beautiful?"
"What do I find myself doing?"
"When you're in a bookstore, what section are you drawn to?"
"Why do I seem to 'shine' when doing certain things? What is it about those activities/places that brings out the best in me?"
"What if I could find a way to incorporate those interests/activities, or some aspect of them, into my life more? And maybe even into my work?"
"How might I go about doing that?"

Make one small change - ask yourself, "what if I make one small change?"
- when you make one small change it can breed confidence for more changes.
Ask yourself, "what if you could not fail?"
- eliminates fear. We can also teach to embrace's like checking off a box...
Ask questions about failure...
Ie, "how do I distinguish between acceptable failure and unacceptable failure?"
Another question could ask, "what if I fail-how will I recover?"
Or alternatively:
If the worst happens, how could I cope?
What if I do nothing?
What if I succeed?
"What's truly worth doing, whether you fail or succeed?"
In life, ask questions that appeal to both parties of opposing viewpoints -  i.e, between gun owners and non-owners: do you care about gun violence? Are you for gun responsibility? - both parties answered yes to those questions. Perhaps questioning can find a common viewpoint rather than always separating into opposing sides. (reminiscent of using statistics to prove a point, perhaps we can use questioning to get people to agree on a commonality of a point...find at least 1% to agree on on a certain topic and then agree on it 100%). 

Follow someone you disagree with on Twitter :). Try asking questions of those with whom we disagree. Why might they see the issue this way? Why do I see it differently? What assumptions are we operating under?
What are the odds I'm wrong? *probably a very good question for an overly positive person...

How will you find your beautiful question? 
Articulating a bold personal question! 
Choosing a question - find the one that resonates....
"How do we continually find inspiration so we can inspire others?"

Authors referenced for question research (I do this so I can do more follow up on my own):
Dan Rothstein & Luz Santana of The Right Question Institute
Polly LaBarre -HBR
Ken Heilman - author
David Cooperrider - Case Western - theory of " appreciative inquiry"
Joichi Ito - director of MIT Media Lab
Stuart Firestein - author
John Seely Brown 
Gretchen Rubin - "The Happiness Project"
Graham Wallas
Tiffany Schlain - film called "Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks"
Paul Harris - "Trusting What You're Told"
Dennie Palmer Wolf - education prof at Brown wrote "The Art of Questioning"
Robert Burton - "On Being Certain"
Paul Bennett - blog called The Curiosity Chronicles 
David Kord Murray - "Borrowing Brilliance"
Chen-Bo Zhong - UofT Rotman School - research on creative and associative thinking
- Christenson - The Innovator's Dilemma
- Sidney Parnes of creative problem solving institute in Buffalo
Tal Ben-Shahar - two books: Happier and Being Happy
Roko Belic - documentary called "Happy"

My own questions:
• what if we could develop a questioning place to think about deep, personal Quora cutting it?
• what if we could then share this "big think" somewhere?

Thanks to Warren Berger - I thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of your labours! Please, read the book. It is a lovely journey and will cause you to think so much!