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Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling Kindle Edition
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About the Author
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
''An invaluable guide for a consultant trying to understand and untangle system and interpersonal knots. Written with a beguiling simplicity and clarity, it is laden with wisdom and practicality.'' --Irvin Yalom, MD, professor emeritus of psychiatry, Stanford University --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- File size : 534 KB
- Publication date : September 2, 2013
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 138 pages
- ASIN : B00CTY5FXM
- Publisher : Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1st edition (September 2, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #92,626 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The challenge with the book is that it relies more on anecdotes and offers little in the form of a structured plan. If you read this book expecting some sort of framework or plan to strengthen your humble inquiry muscle, you'll be a bit disappointed. It seems that Edgar's videos are far more effective at communicating his message - The book would have benefitted from more crisp editing and structure. In some sense, I think the book will benefit from talking the author's advise and structuring around the 'Ask don't tell' model ..maybe a workbook structure that walked you through questions and then anecdotes to make specific points , will work better.
If you've done any reading on getting beyond ego, conflict resolution, or non-violent communication, much of the material in this book won't be new to you. For example, Schein describes the need for an attitude of genuine interest and curiosity, and describes ways to develop that attitude (e.g., reflection, mindfulness, artistic endeavors, building relationships). He discusses the importance of relationships, trust, vulnerability, and understanding feelings rather than suppressing them.
What I found most interesting was his description of U.S. and management cultures, and the consequences they produce. He describes our culture as individualistic, competitive, optimistic, and pragmatic. Though we often espouse teamwork, in actuality we reward individualism. Overlain on that is our "culture of tell" - managers are supposed to know what to do, not ask questions. And subordinates often don't feel safe enough to speak up, so critical information gets withheld.
If you're interested in this topic, I recommend this video interview with Schein on Culture, Leadership, & Humble Inquiry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MwebWXtKBs
The first 12 ½ minutes were the most interesting to me. Schein talks about why upward communication is faulty and how that can yield safety problems, why employees should be treated like human beings, why the culture of "tell" doesn't work in a complex environment, and why managers should aim to be the orchestrator and not the "boss".
Schein clearly articulates the many benefits of his “Humble Inquiry” method through relational examples and situational application across disciplines. To start, he defines what exactly “Humble Inquiry” is, the art of asking with “here and now humility” instead of telling in relationships. Schein defines three types of humility: basic humility, optional humility, and here and now humility. The other key facet of this perspective is the inquiry aspect. Schein insists that inquiry is both “an art and a science”. While inquiry and question formulation has been thoroughly researched, daily it is often overlooked within human interaction.
Throughout the book, Schein provides examples of opportunities for “Humble Inquiry”, as well as missed opportunities. Through personal life examples in the text, we can see that “what we ask, how we ask it, where we ask it, and when we ask it all matter” (pg. 19). Whether the situation is peer to peer, professor to student, CEO to Human Resources, or oncologist to patient, relationships are strengthened through humble inquiry. This tactic of building relationships increases trust amongst individuals.
Schein’s writing style is simple enough for anyone to grasp the concept of the “Humble Inquiry”. He uses many examples throughout the novel to help bolster his argument. These examples show how a conversation can change for the better by using the “Humble Inquiry” outlook. Additionally, by contrasting Humble Inquiry with other kinds of inquiry, Schein can further convey the benefits of humble inquiry in a variety of different settings.
By conveying the message that the “Humble Inquiry” is an attitude, Schein suggests that this concept is a lifestyle change. A change that will help build relationships and create a more thoughtful and productive work environment. Schein conveys the point that by “telling”, we suggest that the other person did not know what we are trying to tell them. Instead, by “asking”, we can communicate the same message while empowering the other person by making it seem as if they assisted in reaching the proposed verdict or conclusion. Schein proposes that everyone, not just managers and executives, take on this attitude. His “Ask don’t tell” model can be just as beneficial to subordinates as it can be to leaders
Schein also gives practical advice on developing the attitude of Humble Inquiry in three main domains: 1) Personal life, to enable dealing with increasing culture diversity; 2) Organizations, to identify needs for collaboration among interdependent work units and to facilitate such collaboration; and 3) Role as leader or manager, to create the relationships and the climate to promote open communication needed for effective task performance (pg. 99).
In summary, Schein’s ability to express the benefits of the “Humble Inquiry” makes the read very worthwhile. Any workplace can use the “Humble Inquiry” to increase trust, inspire coworkers, and create stronger bonds with each other. In his final thought, Schein, explains that we will all find ourselves from time to time “in situations that require innovation and some risk taking.” (pg 110) It is in these moments that Schein challenges us to “not succumb to telling, but to take charge with Humble Inquiry.” (pg. 110). In a modern workplace culture where “tell”, not ask is all too often the norm, Schein’s book would be a fantastic resource for any company or individual that wants to take their relationships and organization to the next level.
Top reviews from other countries
This is a very easy read with deceptively simple advice, but summarises decades of experience on what really brings people and teams together, and what avoids the significant problems that result from a failure of people to effectively communicate.
It is aimed at the American market, and most of the examples are about the way Americans tend to interact. It is particularly good in explaining how individualism and the competitive spirit can get in the way of effective communications. But before others get too self-assured that the problems explained here are unique to the USA, its worth a little humility and willingness to be open to the ideas. They are simple, but profound and I suspect universally applicable.
While the principle of leading through questions rather than via direct orders is not new, I find Schein does an excellent job of presenting the topic in a compelling, easy to follow way and that the format is well chosen to help leaders in reflecting on and subsequently altering their behaviour.
Some additional humility and curiosity (instead of a know it all attitude) would certainly be very welcome in many of today's companies, so the book is timely, even if the concepts within are anything but new.
He always writes in a very human and simple way. I think it takes courage to write simply, as it can sound obvious and ..."surely everyone knows that." But the areas where Schein works - teams, social dynamics and self-reflection - these are highly complex and ambiguous domains. He brings en beautiful clarity, which I always appreciate.
This book is worth your time and money for numerous reasons. For me, the key point was a continuation of his work around Process Consultation and how to give and take advice.
All managers/leaders and parents should read this book. Along with a selection of others but this is one that should definitely be included.
I would buy it again having read it.