“Great questioning, great enlightenment. Little questioning, little enlightenment. No questioning, no enlightenment.”How do we come up with great questions? Sometimes the role of a facilitator is to prompt people to come up with good questions. How? That is what this exercise is designed to do.
1. Working alone, have people spend a few minutes thinking about and writing down a number of questions that they have in their own life or the life of their community. Ensure that the questions are personal. For example, how do I get publicity for this cause? Not: “what is the local government going to do about this issue?”
2. Ask people to choose one of their questions and then to write down the feelings that they have about that question.
3. Still working individually ask people to think about their question and to reflect upon their life with respect to that question. Is there an experience in their life that has prompted that particular question? There may be more than one experience. Ask them to reflect on that experience and to write down their memories and feelings from that experience.
4. In pairs, people then share their question and their experience. The listener then remarks upon their responses to the story and the question and makes suggestions if they have any.
5. Again working individually, each person tries to improve their question. Do new thoughts, feelings and experiences come to mind in doing so?
6. As a whole group ask people to share their final question and the feelings surrounding it.
We can learn a lot from each other by sharing our answers to questions. We might learn even more by sharing our questions and the feelings we have about them. Furthermore, questions are the “critical starting point of problem-solving and innovation.”1 Anyone working within the fields of community development, social justice or sustainability will recognise this.
Warren Berger1 notes that “society does it’s best to discourage questioning, but those that ignore that and remain inquisitive often end up running our most creative and successful businesses while coming up with game changing ideas.”
It is those game changing ideas that society desperately needs, and they begin with good questions.
1. Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.