Getting to Yes, And

Questions are the Answer


Hal Gregersen

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Kelly connects with Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center, Hal Gregersen, about his new book: “Questions are the Answer.”

You write in the book that our inability or reluctance to ask questions really starts when we send our kids to school?

“I don't have data outside of the US, but I've looked at numerous studies from the mid 1950s to the present about questioning rates in typical US educational settings and the data show the same thing, whether you're in first grade or in 12th grade or even in college. And here's what it translates into: the average teacher asks 50 to a hundred questions per hour and if you're a student they give you an average of one second to answer that first question. If you don't get it right, they’ll follow up you with a different question and give you one half of one second. And if you don't get it right at that point, the teacher shifts to the next student and it's machine gun questioning all over again. And instantly these young children who thrive on asking questions and provoking and challenging the world, they learn super-fast that answers are more important than questions - and in schools fast, right answers always trump compelling, difficult questions. And so, we grow up going through school systems that basically teach us to stop asking and just give the answers and keep moving on.”

And that lack of questioning continues into the workplace?

“Without that kind of designated space where people ask the tough questions, there is absolutely no way we can create great things. And this is the challenge in most organizations: the leaders are full of power and those powerful leaders do not go out of their way to create safe spaces for the compelling, tough, crucial questions to get asked.”

And the simple but crucial idea here is that questioning allows you to challenge the things you believe that you may be wrong about.

“I mean, what we're doing, what you're doing, what I'm trying to do, what we're collectively trying to do is create a situation where people are simply willing to suspend convictions for a moment.”

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