The Right Question is the Best Answer

Peter Jones Dialogic Design, Wu Wei

Recent Designing with Dialogue sessions (at OCAD’s Strategic Innovation Lab) have led to a series of inquiries into collective thinking with questions. We initiate dialogue with a question. At its best, dialogue continues with and ends with more questions. The right question has more power than the right answer. The right question is the best answer to an inquiry. A powerful question has the ability to focus personal and collective thinking, energy, orientation, and participation. In a collective context, such as for an organization or team, the ability to focus perspectives and thinking is known as leadership. A collective inquiry distinguishes the context of dialogic leadership from individual leadership. All participants own the questions and the responses in a dialogue, creating a shared capacity for understanding and action. However, when people “follow” a leader’s own framing of a problem, their ability to identify with, reflect, and own the problem is limited. When a group has collectively reflected and reframed a problem through dialogue, they all own the inquiry and understand their collective perspective. People internalize the meaning, and the conversation …

Values integrity: Leadership means keeping it real

Peter Jones Human Values, Transformation Design, Wu Wei

One of the central distinctions in the US presidential election that I’ve seen is that of the candidate’s integrity with their stated and perceived virtues. Barack Obama has led an exemplary campaign, and unbiased observers (of which I cannot really claim to be) would notice that he has maintained a consistent focus on several distinct NEW values which have captured the imagination of millions. Barack redefines what it is to be a leader, by creating a new framing of venerable, even old-school values: Solidarity Doing good, serving everyone in the country Asking people to give their fair share And new values, or at least expressed wholly anew: We can transcend partisanship Hope = faith in ourselves Responsibility: We must grow up and handle the problems we have created as a nation. But he also “holds” integrity by making declarations that are not yet proven “true” in our experience. He claims we can rise above partisanship when we haven’t yet, and may still fail. We have not yet taken responsibility. But Obama is creating a place in language where these assertions …