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Monday, November 16, 2009

Action Learning Components: Questions and Reflection

Over this week, I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Optimizing the Power of Action Learning: Solving Problems and Building Leaders in Real Time by Michael J. Marquardt (Davis-Black Publishers, 2004). CEO’s and Leaders—put this book on your MUST BUY list.

This is the SIXTH of several posts on Action Learning.

Questions are the lifeblood of action learning—and all of coaching as well. Focusing on the right questions, not THE correct answer, is the magic of action learning. Such questions help surface divergent and very useful perspectives on the same problem to better define it accurately so it can be solved effectively. The author uses the analogy of the seven blind men and the elephant (each having a piece of the elephant without them all knowing they have an elephant and not six different objects). Questions also are “the glue that holds groups together.” Otherwise, when groups are TOLD by experts or forceful participants how it SHOULD think or act…the group can fall into chaos and rancor. Here’s how I would sum it up: A question respects another’s wisdom and knowledge and promotes cooperation—BUT—an unbending answer imposes opinion and fear, then anger. Here are just a few questions that Marquardt raises in this section of the book are:

a. Are we using open, reflective, and probing questions?

i. Key education researchers (Bandura, Knowles, etc.) believe that deep learning can only occur from reflection caused by questions.
ii. Questions lead to dialogue—a balance between inquiring and advocating. Keeping this balance is crucial to success.
iii. Keep questions are open ended. Ask Who, What, How questions…avoid “yes” or “no” questions.
iv. Ask affective questions: How do you feel about…?
v. Reflective questions: What do you mean….?
vi. Avoid leading questions: Wouldn’t you be better off saying no to that option?

b. Is listening attentive and open, or is it evaluative and inattentive?

i. Listening as we’re thinking of what we want to say cuts of the inflow of information.
ii. Waiting to talk is NOT listening!
iii. Keeping the mind open to options, instead of cutting options off too early leads to learning, tolerance, and team building. EVERYONE wants to be heard not just talked to.

c.Other questions posed by the author:

i. Are we viewing each other as learning resources?
ii. Are we open to new ways of doing things?
iii. Are new insights arising, and are people making connections with the diversity of questions and opinions being offered?

Note: The author asks a number of other very good questions in this read the entire text. Well worth the effort.

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