February  2008     Edition 34
Leading People to Think

In this fast pace, get it done world

, we spend a lot of our time “doing” and getting others to “do”.  This is generally a good thing.  However, whether you’re a manager, executive or individual contributor, leading others to “think” instead of just “doing” can be an extremely productive and worthwhile effort.

The next time you have a conversation with someone

who has an idea about solving a problem or making a decision, try having that conversation for 15 minutes by only asking questions.  Don’t give your opinion, don’t suggest alternatives, don’t respond with a yes or no, just ask questions.

What type of questions get people to think?

  The amazing thing here is that almost any question starts to get the juices flowing.   Questions are the backbone of Critical Thinking.

Here are some of our favorite questions to help Lead people to think.



So What?

Not to be confused with “I don’t care”.  This question means, “What is the relevance of this information, this view, this proposal, with respect to other issues or the business or the situation”.

What are your assumptions?

   This question can help distinguish between fact vs. belief.  Assumptions are the root of Inductive Logic, which is the majority of our thought.  Getting someone to articulate assumptions can be eye opening.

What is next?

  This question starts “Anticipatory Thinking”.  Having to think about what’s next often uncovers holes in the current thinking or solidifies a well thought out plan.

What problem are you solving?

  Not always appropriate, as it brings the person back to square one, but too often “problems to solve” are articulated with a description of a solution, not the problem.  While the solution might be a good one, if you want to draw out alternatives, go back and help a person get clear on the problem to solve.

You can read more about these techniques and others in past editions of the HeadScratcher Post.


The Takeaway:
   Critical Thinking is about asking questions that get people to think about those things that are taken for granted, or “hand waved” away, or considered “just details”.  Leading people to Think will raise the quality of decisions and plans … and all you have to do is ask questions!

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