Today's educational professionals are moving towards Inquiry-Based Learning. It is a process that we can all learn from as we grow our business, improve our team, or enhance our career. It's about the questions we ask ourselves and others, for instance employees, colleagues or supervisors. It's about having trust enough to allow others to take an active role and responsibility for their part of the business or a project.
"Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios-rather than simply presenting established facts or portraying a smooth path to knowledge." - Wikipedia
Too often, as a boss, we adopt the role of telling people what-to-do or how-to-do with little reference to the why-to-do. In doing so, we take away their initiative and enthusiasm. They soon lose interest in taking responsibility for their actions, for their work. In other words, they continue to do the job with little feeling, fulfillment or meaning. How do we feel when we're told to do something as opposed to being asked how we might do it?
If we take the approach of using questions to help solve problems, overcome challenges, or create new and innovative ways of doing something, we may find ourselves with more enthusiastic team members and better ideas. Their feeling of empowerment will enhance their daily job, which leads to increased productivity and buy-in.
How might we apply this to our business? What lessons can we learn from this approach to learning and growth?
When using an inquiry approach in our conversations with staff, questions are the initial part of working towards a solution, or development of an idea. The questions need to come from everyone concerned, whether in a group meeting or one-on-one, to get a feel of how everyone concerned is looking at the situation. It is important to be cognizant of the types of questions we are asking and how they are "landing" with participants. Are we sounding judgmental and closing off conversation and shutting down ideas? Or, are we encouraging an open discussion and the sharing of ideas and solutions? It's all in how we ask the questions.
With this in mind, we need to think about what we want to learn and what type of questions we want to ask. Closed questions have a tendency to shut off discussion as the answers are either yes/no or very short with no elaboration, while open questions tend to allow discussion and sharing of ideas that may lead to solving the problem. Both have their merits, it is all about what we want to learn and where we want to go.
"Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers." - Tony Robbins
Rob Marshall is the Executive Director of Community Futures Shuswap. For more small business tips and resources, visit beyourfuture.ca