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The Power of Great Questions

Posted: January 1, 2010 by Rob Voyle

David Cooperrider, the founder of appreciative inquiry, said that organizations grow in the direction of the questions they ask. Every time we ask a question of someone we influence or move the person or group in some direction. If these two statements are true and from my experience they are, then it pays to ask questions that move people in the direction we want them to go. For example if we want the group to move toward success, we need to ask questions about how they succeeded in the past, and what they want to accomplish in the future.

On the other hand if we ask a group what problems they are having, the people will be moved in the direction of problems and causality. This evokes blame and judgment which in turns creates defensiveness on the part of those who feel blamed. The end result is that members of the group will have been moved into a realm of greater alienation and powerlessness. Even if the problem solving question is asked with a minimal sense of blame, over time this problem centered approach will result in an erosion of confidence and well-being and leave people feeling powerless and immersed in their problems.

The appreciative approach of asking what is working and what would "more" look like continually moves people into a realistic and empowered hope for a better future. As Cooperrider has also said: "we need to inquire into and discover the root cause of success rather than the root cause of failure." When confronting a problem we need to get clear on what a successful outcome would be and then explore what resources we need to achieve it, rather than focus on why we can't achieve the goal.

Here are some of my favorite questions:

* What is it that you really, love to do?
* What would happen to your life if you got to do more of what you really love to do?
* What do you need in order to do more of what you love?

Notice we don't inquire why you can't do more of what you love, but what do you need to do what you love.

What would happen to your church if it stopped doing what it "should do" and simply became a place to support people to do what they really love to do?

To live in love and to share love is our heritage as the children of God. To grow communities of love we need to inquire deeply into our experience of love and sharing that love with others.

Rob Voyle

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On April 21, 2014 Rob Voyle responded to Rob Voyle:

Welcome to the Appreciative Way Blog
I wish You every blessing in your life and work and hope you find these articles helpful.
Rob Voyle

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
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