Summary — Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein

I have always felt that what is the use of writing and sharing experiences. After reading “Humble Inquiry”, I’m convinced that writing should continue. Edgar quotes “ When we share our stories , we provide each other opportunities to discover important similarities in our experiences and our reactions, even as we know that experiences still differ in many ways”. Further adds in to “ We have to listen and understand- this allows us to identify with the storyteller, which in turn prompts us to inquire further “. An example I can think of is “YourStory” website. All the in-depth information about the author, company is revealed threadbare in each story!. Which makes the reader inquire themselves again and again.

Humble inquiry is certainly need of the hour, wherein the entire world wants to tell something every second in the way of articles, journals, internet posts in fb, Instagram or “xx” platform which will be released every next day. All these are Level 1 transactional telling. Immediate implementation of HI is for Sales people. Get on to Level 2 as quickly as possible. Build Trust, not just pipeline. Build relationship, not just product. Pipeline & Products gets evolved or disappear at different/difficult times. But Trust and relationship are beyond obvious. Stays forever, until one person decides to break it.

In the corporate world , “Steering committee “ role is to steer the program/project. But how do they do ? Some do by telling what to do.. many effective steering committee to by “inquiry”. Diagnostic inquiry is Not telling how to do, but gain the other person attention by asking curious questions.

In the name of Root cause analysis, sometime the confrontative inquiry becomes more of a person who is asking questions, than the actual problem. If only this has become “Diagnostic Inquiry”, then the outcome would have been more positive and productive for the company & Individuals.

For a better family harmony, “ what you ask , the content of the question defines the situation “

A typical (USA) management style is tell and do. When hit with a problem it’s always “We will do this way “( decisive) and gets into voting for/against. Creates a false atmosphere that leader should always know when to do, and if asked “what else can be done or ask for team’s opinion , then the leader may look weak”.

In my view, this could be the breaking point of how managers, leaders behave in the Asian community. All the Professional Organizations are based on West (eg PMI, Prince2 ) and created based on the USA or British culture which is fundamentally different from Asia culture — Which is perform individually, but also ensure that your community is taken care , travels with you. Sometime the views is so hard that even if a person is intellectually proficient, if he/she doesn’t consider the community, then he/she is not viewed as successful as the person should have been.

Impact of all these creates wider gap. Where the teamwork , collaboration is sought for task achievement in USA, these are basic for other cultures in Asia. If this is threatened, it impacts the performance directly and hence the management style (from west) doesn’t help much.

Humble Inquiry is a real deal in for management !

The author, Edgar, dives deep into what’s the facial expressions and analyses a tiny movements in the face when one person meets another. There is no expectation when we meet a stranger. But if you know a person ,makes eye contact and after that’s doesn’t follow thru with a acknowledgment/validation, that creates social trauma.

ORJI- Observation, Reaction, Judgement, Intervention cycle.

Situational Awareness is for the Leaders who know about the solution for the questions you are going to ask, but don’t tell. They utilize the Humble Inquiry to be more sensitive in situations where more information is needed.

Humble Inquiry is not about learning faster. Its about Slow things down to see the big picture.

Thank you.



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