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Smart Questions: Learn to Ask the Right Questions for Powerful Results Paperback – June 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470894075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470894071
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,962,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Smart Questions and the concept of the Smart Questions Approach are long overdue, and I only wish they had reached my desk 40 years ago. Getting the right people involved at the onset and defining and then seeking ‘an expanded purpose’ are obvious to me now. I wish they had always been so.”
—Paul Torgersen, president emeritus and John W. Hancock Chair of Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

“Smart Questions is a must for nonprofit business. The Smart Questions Approach definitely jump-started our staff in planning and thinking differently about solving problems. Our staff now gets creative solutions by asking Smart Questions.”
—Michael Jackson, president and CEO, Drew Child Development Corporation, Los Angeles

“The ideas in Smart Questions are very intriguing and helpful. It’s the first book I know of to give structure and substance to the cliché that a person faced with a problem (or an opportunity) should first search fo r the right questions, rather than for the right answers. Bravo! The book will surely move the reader a long way toward thinking creatively.”
—Steven B. Sample, author of the best-seller The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership and president, University of Southern California

Distilling from many years of successful consulting to leading innovators in business, the arts, and public and private organizations, the authors have crafted an engaging, practical ‘how to’ primer for learning what it takes to build the personal, interpersonal, and organizational bases in knowledge and understanding that support successful innovation.”
—Edward O. Laumann, George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology and the College, University of Chicago

“Smart Questions penetrates to the core of what creative managers intuitively do.  It provides major insight into how to attend to and leverage the social, physical, and organizational context of a problem. An excellent blend of modern and postmodern thinking.”
—John Seely Brown, coauthor of the best-seller The Social Life of Information and former chief scientist and director of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

There are many reasons that business leaders, managers, and private individuals go about problem solving in the wrong way. As Gerald Nadler and William Chandon point out, most people have learned to use the wrong framework or paradigm for working through issues and problems. In essence, they approach problems using a thinking mode that leads to excessive if not pointless data collection, analysis-paralysis, and static solutions that tend to only patch up the situation for a short period of time.

Smart Questions offers an entirely new framework for creating solutions. Drawn from the authors' many years of research and field experience, the Smart Questions Approach reveals how the leading creators of solutions in almost every profession and walk of life—including business, government, education, and even in families—think and approach their assignments. The author’s holistic thinking approach shows how to use three “foundation” questions—focusing on uniqueness, purposeful information, and systems—which must be explored for every problem. These three questions, an essent ial starting point for exploring problems, in turn lead to other key questions that will ultimately create effective solutions.

Smart Questions will completely retrain the reader to become a more intelligent thinker and a better creator of solutions—with an ability to develop creative, purposeful, long-term answers in a wide range of situations. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Al Coholic on August 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Smart Questions elaborates on the work of one of the author's previous works ("Breakthrough Thinking") by focusing our attention on a smaller number of the steps that are outlined in their previous work.

And that, to me, is where the problem lies.

Rather than provide a comprehensive approach to solving problems, I found this publication to be lacking in providing an over-arching framework that could be applied in the same was a 'Breakthrough Thinking'.

What I found instead was greater detail on a smaller number of actions that left me with the not so smart question - why did the authors write this book? Between "Breakthrough Thinking" and "Creative Solution Finding" most of the material in this newer publicatioin has been covered and, if you've not read Nadler & Hibino's previous works then I could only suggest you start there and arrive at this publication only if you still feel you're missing something.

On occasions, the work feels elusive - we are left short of understanding the key processes and key criteria for how the level at which decisions are made are arrived at. I found that a recurring problem and one difficult to overlook.

As with all the publications that come within this 'series', you can't go wrong in buying and learning from what is written. I just feel this is one of the weaker additions to their efforts as it adds very little that I could describe as new to what they have already covered. Maybe in more detail but detail is not the wisdom of which they obviously aim for.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By T. Wilkinson on June 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is more an academic work than a practical guide. The authors take an incredible amount of words to make their points. I am sure there is some good stuff in the book, however you will need a lot of time and patience to find it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Noel Coburn on May 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is very well written yet it requires a certain amount of commitment and effort to read and absorb it. In my opinion, it is worth every second of time spent by anyone who wants to improve the quality and effectiveness of their thinking.

Smart Questions is process-centric rather than principle-centric. It builds on the Breakthrough Thinking principles and 'flow of reasoning' and has three major components:

- Three foundation questions interweave the uniqueness, information, and systems principles into the fabric of a compelling process.

- Four phases of the SQA process are solidly based on the people, purposes, solutions, and time betterment principles.

- The three-step LOD (List, Organize, Decide) sub process for applying smart questions incorporates divergent and convergent thinking as naturally as breathing as you work through the phases of the process.

In particular, the process is smoother and the steps flow into each other in a way that should make it easier to achieve more momentum faster on projects. I will definitely use it.

There is an updated and expanded portfolio of really useful tools. Developing a purposes hierarchy is much easier whether you are using the couplet test in conjunction with a structured approach or using basic categories with an intuitive method. The authors also provide a powerful list of verbs that really do stimulate thinking about purposes. New additions also include

- The Smart Questions Decision Worksheet

- The Smart Questions People Involvement Worksheet

- Twelve core questions that apply the three foundation questions to each of the four phases of the process

- Hundreds of indicative smart question to stimulate and inspire and keep the process moving.

If you are willing to invest some time and effort, this book really has the potential to improve your life
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cowboy Jeff on March 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you can't sleep, this is the perfect book for you. There must be a point somewhere in this book, but I gave up before I found it. If you are interested in a collection of random thoughts that make little sense, a 'framework' for asking questions that by the time you get through it the only question you ask is 'how much did I pay for this?', then this is for you. Each 'phase' of the approach (4 of them) is ~50 pages that are written like the SOPs for GE in 1949 - way too many words, too many bullets, statements so obvious that you can't even believe they are in print. You thought asking questions was simple, huh? Think again - it can be so overly complicated you don't have a clue what a question is when you are finished. Overall, this is a total waste of trees and time.
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