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Archive for open questions

In Search of Deeper Learning

Deep Learning

A new book by Mehta and Fine about remaking U.S. high schools says their research shows it is the extra curricular work in teams to accomplish a big task, such as putting on a theater production, where they learned and enjoyed the most.
The authors, credit these type of projects with instilling critical thinking, collaboration, and effective communication, all I suggest essential in the business world. The authors also included content mastery though I would say given the ease of using technology to look things up, is not as important as having enough knowledge to recognize what you do and don’t know.
Instilling the the skills that make up critical thinking can improve collaboration and effective communication because it requires bringing in various viewpoints, asking good questions, listening effectively to each other, and working through more than one logical position or argument.

Your Mental Shortcuts

Mental shortcuts, we all make them throughout the day. In a sense, they are necessary coping mechanisms your brain has been developing your whole life. Because there is no way to pay equal attention to everything within eyesight, earshot, and close enough to touch, our brain has developed filters to let in what it believes you need to know and leave out a large majority of what is going on around you.
Consider for a moment how you function during your daily drive or ride, or even walk, to work.
Most of what you pass by is a blur. Most of what you pass you take little or no interest. So much so that when you arrive at your destination you will not remember seeing or hearing most of what was actually there.
Your cognitive bias made those decisions for you. The filters you have built up to protect yourself from over stimulation and clutter worked.
But, and that is a big but, did you miss something that in the past wasn’t important but now is? Did you assume you knew what happened but really didn’t?
We can’t function in a busy world without our filters and we can’t take for granted that we didn’t miss anything important.
So what can you do? Ask others what they saw and heard. Ask for other viewpoints, other experiences, to add to your own. Be open minded about what you might have missed or added into a scene because of your filters, your own cognitive biases. They, too, have biases. Together you may both get a more complete picture.
Ask open questions and listen openly to the answers.

The power of sincere questions

Questions are a sign of intelligence, of interest, of curiosity, of caring about the other person and the topic, and of being a critical thinker. Can you think of anything else you can say that is this powerful?

Questions, to be able to drink in that power, must be paired with power listening.

Once you ask that question, it is essential that you become silent, wait for and pay attention to the answer.

Some people try to answer their own questions. Some think that the other person pausing to think before answering means they don’t know what to answer.

Just like asking the question is a sign of interest in the other person, waiting and paying attention to the answer is a sign of respect.

Ask powerful questions

Powerful questions are ones that dig deeper into a subject and bring up interesting ideas and options.  Avoid asking questions that you know the answer as if you are testing someone to see if they know the answer you have in your head.  There is no new information, ideas or combinations when you are just testing them.  Powerful questions are open ended so that the person answering is free to take the subject in a new direction.