quest1.jpgToday I have just finished reading an intriguing book ‘Change Your Questions, Change Your Life’ by Marilee Adams. One of the key understandings I have gained from the book is that all actions are answers to questions, and if we continue to ask the same questions all we do is repeat old actions. Changing the questions we ask ourselves, and others, gives us new perspectives and new answers. If all actions are answers to questions that we ask, consciously or unconsciously, then changing the questions is a powerful way to gaining new perspectives, new answers, new solutions and powerful change.

A simple example:
During the last week as I have worked with teachers in Nelson I had a powerful example of this principle in action.
As a group of teachers we were looking at how we could facilitate change in our schools and classrooms. To start the process I had intended to look at the question “What is good teaching?”, however I realised that this is a question we have often asked ourselves and while the answers it has generated have been a useful tool for examining our classroom practices we needed to generate a new perspective that would facilitate change. The book suggests that changing the question creates new perspectives. On this basis we took the question “What is good learning?”
We sat in groups and discussed this, creating our answers. The next step was to use the answer to the question as a torch to shine new light on to our classroom practice. This was a powerful exercise as we all found that our beliefs about quality learning posed some very real challenges to aspects of our practice. At the end of the session we carried out an “L and P” summation. This requires participants to share something that they have learnt (L) and what they promise (P) to do about it. Every teacher had identified some aspect of their practice that they then promised to make some changes to.

In terms of management and leadership this approach also has some exciting posibilities. The book outlines tow main viewpoints we carry with us into any and every situation. It suggests that we we carry either a learning approach or a judgemental approach and that being human we move continuously between the two. At any point in time we consciously and unconciously are asking a range of questions about ourselves, our situations, our environment and the other people we are interacting with. Those questions vary dramatically in nature depending on which state we are in. When we are in a 'learner' state the questions are very different from when we are in a 'judger' state. Obviously different questions produce different answers and hence different actions. The book then shares how we can take control of our thinking and make choices about which of the two pathways we take in any given situation. The implications and practical outcomes of using different questions is immense for management and leadership.

I know a number of principals who are reading this book now and am looking forward to hearing from them and others about this aspect of questioning.