Step 0 (pre-workshop): Identify a Question Theme or Focus
Before convening your group, identify a theme or focus that will help your participants understand the scope of the workshop and focus their creative inquiry on an area relevant to current/future concerns and objectives. We’ve found it useful to frame the theme as a problem statement. E.g., Our leaders are struggling to engage and motivate teams in a digital work environment. This was actually the question theme we used for a recent workshop with our Learning Partner community.
Step 1: Generate Questions
Split your group into subgroups of 4-6, small enough so that everyone will be able to easily contribute and be heard. Ask each subgroup to designate a notetaker who will record all questions in a shared/collaborative document. If we know that there’s a particularly dominant voice in a subgroup, we sometimes like to volunteer that individual as the notetaker to keep them busy listening rather than doing all the talking.
Give the group at least 12 minutes (we recommend 15 - 20 ideally) to generate questions. They are simply to generate and record at this point. No discussion, no debate, no attempts to answer these compelling questions as they arise. Don’t be afraid to allot a generous block of time here: The richest questions are often asked after all of the obvious, expected questions have already been voiced.
Step 2: Refine Questions
Allow almost as much time for this step as the previous one (12 - 15 minutes) for the subgroups to revisit and refine questions. Make them more interesting, more focused, deeper, or richer. Consider opening any closed questions and vice versa. Begin to notice which questions feel most compelling or most important.
This is where the genius of collaboration emerges. We often find that our own questions are improved by a colleague’s tweak or slight reframe and that we might be able to similarly enrich questions that didn’t originally occur to us.
Step 3: Prioritize Questions
Give the subgroups 8 - 10 minutes to review their refined questions and identify their favorites. Ask each group to select 2 or 3 top questions and to choose a spokesperson who will share with the larger group in the next round.
We like to prioritize the questions that we feel most excited to discuss or debate at this point. One facilitator we know instructs participants to choose a most compelling question (“Which are you most eager to explore?”), a most urgent question (“Which is most important to explore immediately?”), and a most surprising question (“Which would have been least likely to cross your mind before today?”).
Step 4: Share Questions
In the large group setting, it’s finally time to share our richest questions (or those that Berger describes as beautiful – non-obvious, ambitious but actionable, perspective shifting, etc.). Allow each subgroup spokesperson a few moments to share aloud and to answer any requests from the larger group for clarification. Note reactions and any patterns that start to emerge among the collection of prioritized questions.
Step 5: Explore Questions
Be sure to keep the full lists of compiled questions for later review, but close the workshop with a discussion of next steps around the shared questions. Note the patterns that have emerged among favorites, and allow the group to comment on those questions that feel most compelling / rich / essential. Which questions will we begin to explore? How might we start to address and answer these questions? Who will own experiments to facilitate learning?
A successful workshop should generate a shortlist of rich, actionable questions that your group feels excited to explore, a longer list questions that may be less immediately useful but can still help leadership get a handle on the organizations known unknowns vs. unknown unknowns, and a collective taste for the role that questioning can play in building a practice of more creative innovation.
Jeffrey and the be radical team
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