The Questioning Culture
Sometimes, the question is more important than the answer.
In chapter 1, we discussed why organizations need to welcome questions and to create a questioning culture. Now we focus on how they can do it. We have to return to the very basics of communication if we are to create a positive questioning culture. Language is a primary expression of our thinking. Jeff De Cagna, an author and speaker on learning, says, “A question, which is a basic construct of language, is still an expression of our not fully formed thinking or a device employed to help another shape his or her thinking.” For De Cagna, fostering a questioning culture is really creating a culture that values thinking.1 Thinking requires being open to new ideas, and it requires a culture tolerant of dissent and diversity. It is a workplace that understands, as the saying goes, that machines make it possible, people make it happen. For people who do not question, who are not asked to think, become machines, as replaceable as any piece of equipment.
Thinking and tolerant … two ambitions and definitions of a positive questioning culture. This is not surprising, since the respondents to the survey for this book believed the most important question managers should ask their employees time and again to be “What do you think?” If only creating a questioning culture were as simple as asking just that one question. It is, instead, a never-ending process involving issues as diverse as definitions of humor and the impact of e-mail. What follows are points you can contrast and compare to your own workplace and life. This is the distilled essence of many discussions on what can be done to bring about a culture where positive question asking is honored, rewarded, and encouraged and question asking is defined as every employee's right and obligation.
As these arguments unfold, I ask you to consider a rich question Jeff