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There are two types of questions:
- those for which you want an answer
- those which lead to more questions
The value of the first kind is we may get an insight on how to solve a problem. We stop asking the question once we have an answer. The value of the second kind is that it keeps the exploration of our belief systems going. We aren’t looking for an answer, we’re looking for more questions.
The first kind of question is useful, but the second kind of question is powerful. There are useful for others and for ourselves. When interacting with others I try to imagine what their belief system is that they woudl be saying what they are saying. I am not a mind reader, of course, so I have to ask them something to validate what they are thinking. Sometimes I ask just that “why are you saying that? Note I’m not challenging you, I just want to understand.” I also sometimes ask them something like “it sounds like you are saying XYZ, is that correct?” Both questions show your interest and increase empathy.
If they are thinking something I believe is not true I ask them how things are working for them and when they aren’t. The idea is to get them to reflect on their thinking. I engage in the questioning to have us both learn, without an underlying assumption that I am correct. But there is an agenda. If there’s a conflict in our thinking I want to resolve it and am happy either way it goes because then at least one of us will learn something.
As for questions to myself, I look for what others I respect say/write that is inconsistent with what I believe. I ask myself what the difference is and where one belief works better than another. The key is to be questioning on a frequent basis. After finding some long held belief to not be true I take that newly acquired humility to ask what else might not be true. 🙂
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This chapter was an excerpt from FLEX for the Disciplined Agilist: FLow for Enterprise Transformation (online book). It has been edited to fit into the Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant workshop. The Table of Contents for the book is here.