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The Powerful Questions Card Deck


by Elizabeth Graff and Chris Batchelder

26 March 2019



Image

Powerful questions are like keys. If you ask the right one, a door unlocks. The right question can get you the information you need, generate energy, help you build relationships and expand your understanding of what’s possible. You can use powerful questions to kick off projects, to stir up debate in meetings, to resolve conflict and to understand stakeholders’ needs and perspectives.

But when you’re new to the practice of asking powerful questions, it can be hard to generate these questions from scratch. That’s why we created the Powerful Questions Deck. It’s a deck of 50 playing cards, each with a powerful question printed on the back.


Image

The deck includes four essential questions.


Image

The deck also includes six cards that prompt you to “Dig Deeper.”


Image

We’ve been experimenting with the deck and wanted to share 17 ideas for how to use it by yourself and with others.

If you’re interested in learning more or obtaining a copy of the Powerful Questions Deck to try out for yourself, you can download a copy for free here and print it out yourself or reach out to Chris at chris@boneducation.com to purchase a deck.

5 Ways to Use the Powerful Questions Deck By Yourself

1. Introspection Catalyst. According to organizational psychologist and self-awareness researcher Tasha Eurich, the vast majority of people who engage in self-reflection approach the task in the wrong way. What are we doing wrong? According to Eurich, we’re asking ourselves “why” questions, which lead to rumination rather than insight. Questions that start with “what” or “how” tend to be more helpful. The next time you feel the urge to ask yourself a “why” question, draw five cards from the Powerful Inquiry Deck. Pick one and use it as a springboard for a more powerful introspection session. Explore the question in whatever medium allows you to think most freely. Journal about it. Dance about it. Call a friend and talk about it. Paint about it. Play an instrumental with a good beat in your car, drive around your neighborhood and spit some freestyle verses about it. Seriously. See what happens.

2. Note to Self. Pick one question from the Powerful Inquiry Deck that you’d like to start asking yourself more regularly (e.g., “What is this really about?”). Then, put that card in a spot that you’ll see every day (e.g., taped to your bathroom mirror, nestled in your wallet, affixed to your computer monitor). When you feel that the question has become part of your regular mindset, switch it out for a new question.

3. Vision Board. The “Vision Board” is a classic coaching exercise used to help people develop an inspiring vision for some aspect of their life: career, health, finances, etc. The person making the board traditionally collages together motivational words and images representing goals and actions that will move him/her incrementally closer toward a bigger goal. Use the Powerful Questions Deck to develop your vision. Questions like “What’s the most playful way we could approach this?” and “In what ways have I already achieved this?” might inspire you to look at your vision in a new or unexpected way.

4. Digital Reminders. Are there points in your day when you would benefit from a powerful question? Select a question or two that you like and program them into your phone as repeating alarms. For example, you might want to start every day with the question “What do I want to create?” Or, if you notice that you often feel overwhelmed in the afternoon, set a reminder for the question, “What is most important right now?” to pop up at 2pm every day.

5. Question Recipes. Identify situations in which you would like to get better at powerful inquiry. Try to pick situations that come up frequently for you. For example, you might select a situation like task analysis, performance reviews or decision-making. For each situation, sort through the cards and pick three to five questions that you think would always be useful in that situation. For each, write the type of situation at the top of a sheet of paper, then write the questions underneath. Store these “powerful inquiry recipes” along with your Powerful Questions Deck and refer back to them as needed.

12 Ways to Use the Powerful Questions Deck With Others

1. Meeting Bookends. Pick a question from the Powerful Questions Deck. Pose the question at the beginning of a meeting as an icebreaker to frame a meeting (e.g., “What is the higher purpose of our work?”). Then, pose the same question again at the closing of the meeting. Note how people’s answers change.

2. Coaching Session. In advance of a coaching or mentoring session, ask your coachee or mentee to share the topic that s/he would like to discuss. The topic could be a relationship, a decision that s/he needs to make, a challenging situation, an area of life in which s/he feels stuck, a new responsibility, etc. Before the meeting, pull out the four Essential Questions, the six Dig Deeper cards, plus five additional cards from the Powerful Questions Deck that apply to the person’s topic. Lay the questions out on the table. Give three Dig Deeper cards to the coachee or mentee and keep three for yourself. Ask the coachee or mentee to pick one question to begin the conversation. At any point, either of you can shift to another question or “play” a Dig Deeper card.

3. Question Storm. Sometimes, it can be more useful to generate questions than answers, a technique that has come to be known as “question storming.” And, we’re not the first ones to come up with this idea. Hal Gregersen, executive director of MIT Leadership Center, calls this activity a Question Burst. Right Question Institute has developed its own variation called the Question Formulation Technique. And Stanford Professor Tina Seelig coined the term Frame Storming to describe a process for reframing an issue. Next time your team is struggling with a challenge, use the Powerful Questions Deck to lead members through a question-storming session. Start by clearly articulating the focus of the session. Then, encourage the group to generate questions. The team can look to the Powerful Questions Deck for inspiration and generate its own questions. Write down every question that is asked. When you’ve finished generating questions, review the questions and strengthen them. Then, pick the top questions that you’d like to pursue. Finally, determine the next steps as a team.

4. Powerful Questioners. To introduce your team to powerful questions, have each person on your team pick one powerful question from the deck. It will be that person’s job to bring that question up at team meetings and throughout the course of the month. So, someone might act as the “What do we need to learn?” person and someone else might serve as the “How can we take this to the next level?” person. When the month is over, hold a reflection meeting during which each person can share how that question shaped or altered his/her month. Repeat by having everyone pick a new question for the next month.

5. Question Boards. The next time your team needs to analyze a situation, make a decision, shake yourselves out of autopilot mode or start a new project, pick four cards from the Powerful Questions Deck and affix them to different walls in the room. Explain the situation to your team so that everyone knows the focus for the activity. Provide your team with Post-it Notes and pens. Give everyone 10 minutes to write down their answers to the questions on Post-it Notes, post them on the walls, read one another’s answers and post their responses to other people’s ideas. Complete this activity in silence. Then, bring the group together to discuss the insights that have emerged.

6. Heads Up. This is a variation on the Question Boards activity. As before, explain the situation to your team. But instead of putting questions on the wall, give each person in the meeting a card from the Powerful Questions Deck. Without looking at the question, each person should tape the question that he or she has been given to his or her forehead (or to a hat). Have the group walk around the room engaging in brief conversations inspired by the questions that they are wearing. At the end, gather the group back together. Each person must guess what question he or she is wearing. Afterward, host a discussion about any new insights that emerged from the activity.

7. Dinnertime Deck. According to organizational psychologist William Kahn, there are two types of conversations: genuine conversations and counterfeit ones. A counterfeit conversation is a stand-in for the real story. It’s a conversation with just enough truth to “pass” as the real thing. But counterfeit conversations only contain part of the story. When we find the courage to replace counterfeit conversations with what Kahn calls genuine conversations — conversations in which we reveal our actual experiences and true selves — progress becomes possible. You can tell which is which because counterfeit conversations often: 1) Repeat the same conversation that you’ve been having for months (or longer), 2) Elicit a more intense emotional responses than the subject warrants on the surface, or 3) Paint a situation in an overly simplistic manner, with “good guys” and “bad guys.” Keep a Powerful Questions Deck on your dinner table. The next time you notice your dinner companions (i.e., your kids, your partner, your roommates or yourself!) tiptoeing into a counterfeit conversation, draw a question from the Powerful Questions Deck and see if you can guide the conversation in a more genuine direction.

8. Conflict Resolution. The next time you find yourself mediating (or in the middle of) a conflict, bring the Powerful Questions Deck into the discussion. Ask each person to look through the deck and pick three questions that s/he would like to ask the other person. Before each person asks the questions, lay down the ground rules: First, each person must ensure that her/his intentions are pure intentions (no agenda or judgment). Second, each person must answer the question for her or himself first and be willing to share her/his answer. Third, each person must put her/his hand over her/his heart when asking the question.

9. Pen Pals. We all have people whom we wish that we could see more often. A cousin who lives across the country, a friend from college, an old mentor. Reach out to this person and suggest that you both participate in a pen-pal question exchange. To play, split the Powerful Questions Deck in half. Start by writing your pen pal a letter inspired by one card in the deck. Mail this person the letter along with the card. When your pen pal receives your letter, s/he will pick a card from her/his deck and write back. Repeat as desired.

10. Dig Deeper. The Powerful Questions Deck includes six Dig Deeper cards. Distribute one to each person on your team. Explain that anyone can play this card when s/he wants others on the team to keep exploring an idea. Encourage team members to “play” their Dig Deeper cards throughout the work day for a whole week. At the end of the week, regroup and debrief on the experience.

11. Professional Learning Group. Host a weekly or monthly discussion group for colleagues interested in deepening their professional practice. Pick an article, podcast, documentary or another source of information related to your profession. Ask everyone to read, listen or watch it in advance. Then, pick relevant questions from the Powerful Questions Deck to frame the group’s discussion.

12. Clearness Committee. For more than 300 years, Quakers have been helping members of their community access their own inner voices through a powerful type of meeting called a Clearness Committee. When someone in the community is faced with a large decision or a difficult problem, a group gathers. For two hours, the group sits together to hold a space for deep inquiry. The members of the Clearness Committee help the person connect with his or her own inner teacher by setting aside their own opinions and advice. Instead, they spend the whole meeting asking nothing but open, honest questions. Members of the committee are not allowed to make statements or ask leading questions. Use the Powerful Questions Deck to hold your own Clearness Committee. Gather a group of peers whom you trust and pass out the cards. Members of your Clearness Committee can ask you questions on the cards or their own questions.

If you’re interested in learning more or obtaining a copy of the Powerful Questions Deck to try out for yourself, you can download a copy for free here and print it out yourself or reach out to us at chris@boneducation.com to purchase a deck.




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interstories



The Powerful Questions Card Deck


by Elizabeth Graff and Chris Batchelder

26 March 2019



Image

Powerful questions are like keys. If you ask the right one, a door unlocks. The right question can get you the information you need, generate energy, help you build relationships and expand your understanding of what’s possible. You can use powerful questions to kick off projects, to stir up debate in meetings, to resolve conflict and to understand stakeholders’ needs and perspectives.

But when you’re new to the practice of asking powerful questions, it can be hard to generate these questions from scratch. That’s why we created the Powerful Questions Deck. It’s a deck of 50 playing cards, each with a powerful question printed on the back.


Image

The deck includes four essential questions.


Image

The deck also includes six cards that prompt you to “Dig Deeper.”


Image

We’ve been experimenting with the deck and wanted to share 17 ideas for how to use it by yourself and with others.

If you’re interested in learning more or obtaining a copy of the Powerful Questions Deck to try out for yourself, you can download a copy for free here and print it out yourself or reach out to Chris at chris@boneducation.com to purchase a deck.

5 Ways to Use the Powerful Questions Deck By Yourself

1. Introspection Catalyst. According to organizational psychologist and self-awareness researcher Tasha Eurich, the vast majority of people who engage in self-reflection approach the task in the wrong way. What are we doing wrong? According to Eurich, we’re asking ourselves “why” questions, which lead to rumination rather than insight. Questions that start with “what” or “how” tend to be more helpful. The next time you feel the urge to ask yourself a “why” question, draw five cards from the Powerful Inquiry Deck. Pick one and use it as a springboard for a more powerful introspection session. Explore the question in whatever medium allows you to think most freely. Journal about it. Dance about it. Call a friend and talk about it. Paint about it. Play an instrumental with a good beat in your car, drive around your neighborhood and spit some freestyle verses about it. Seriously. See what happens.

2. Note to Self. Pick one question from the Powerful Inquiry Deck that you’d like to start asking yourself more regularly (e.g., “What is this really about?”). Then, put that card in a spot that you’ll see every day (e.g., taped to your bathroom mirror, nestled in your wallet, affixed to your computer monitor). When you feel that the question has become part of your regular mindset, switch it out for a new question.

3. Vision Board. The “Vision Board” is a classic coaching exercise used to help people develop an inspiring vision for some aspect of their life: career, health, finances, etc. The person making the board traditionally collages together motivational words and images representing goals and actions that will move him/her incrementally closer toward a bigger goal. Use the Powerful Questions Deck to develop your vision. Questions like “What’s the most playful way we could approach this?” and “In what ways have I already achieved this?” might inspire you to look at your vision in a new or unexpected way.

4. Digital Reminders. Are there points in your day when you would benefit from a powerful question? Select a question or two that you like and program them into your phone as repeating alarms. For example, you might want to start every day with the question “What do I want to create?” Or, if you notice that you often feel overwhelmed in the afternoon, set a reminder for the question, “What is most important right now?” to pop up at 2pm every day.

5. Question Recipes. Identify situations in which you would like to get better at powerful inquiry. Try to pick situations that come up frequently for you. For example, you might select a situation like task analysis, performance reviews or decision-making. For each situation, sort through the cards and pick three to five questions that you think would always be useful in that situation. For each, write the type of situation at the top of a sheet of paper, then write the questions underneath. Store these “powerful inquiry recipes” along with your Powerful Questions Deck and refer back to them as needed.

12 Ways to Use the Powerful Questions Deck With Others

1. Meeting Bookends. Pick a question from the Powerful Questions Deck. Pose the question at the beginning of a meeting as an icebreaker to frame a meeting (e.g., “What is the higher purpose of our work?”). Then, pose the same question again at the closing of the meeting. Note how people’s answers change.

2. Coaching Session. In advance of a coaching or mentoring session, ask your coachee or mentee to share the topic that s/he would like to discuss. The topic could be a relationship, a decision that s/he needs to make, a challenging situation, an area of life in which s/he feels stuck, a new responsibility, etc. Before the meeting, pull out the four Essential Questions, the six Dig Deeper cards, plus five additional cards from the Powerful Questions Deck that apply to the person’s topic. Lay the questions out on the table. Give three Dig Deeper cards to the coachee or mentee and keep three for yourself. Ask the coachee or mentee to pick one question to begin the conversation. At any point, either of you can shift to another question or “play” a Dig Deeper card.

3. Question Storm. Sometimes, it can be more useful to generate questions than answers, a technique that has come to be known as “question storming.” And, we’re not the first ones to come up with this idea. Hal Gregersen, executive director of MIT Leadership Center, calls this activity a Question Burst. Right Question Institute has developed its own variation called the Question Formulation Technique. And Stanford Professor Tina Seelig coined the term Frame Storming to describe a process for reframing an issue. Next time your team is struggling with a challenge, use the Powerful Questions Deck to lead members through a question-storming session. Start by clearly articulating the focus of the session. Then, encourage the group to generate questions. The team can look to the Powerful Questions Deck for inspiration and generate its own questions. Write down every question that is asked. When you’ve finished generating questions, review the questions and strengthen them. Then, pick the top questions that you’d like to pursue. Finally, determine the next steps as a team.

4. Powerful Questioners. To introduce your team to powerful questions, have each person on your team pick one powerful question from the deck. It will be that person’s job to bring that question up at team meetings and throughout the course of the month. So, someone might act as the “What do we need to learn?” person and someone else might serve as the “How can we take this to the next level?” person. When the month is over, hold a reflection meeting during which each person can share how that question shaped or altered his/her month. Repeat by having everyone pick a new question for the next month.

5. Question Boards. The next time your team needs to analyze a situation, make a decision, shake yourselves out of autopilot mode or start a new project, pick four cards from the Powerful Questions Deck and affix them to different walls in the room. Explain the situation to your team so that everyone knows the focus for the activity. Provide your team with Post-it Notes and pens. Give everyone 10 minutes to write down their answers to the questions on Post-it Notes, post them on the walls, read one another’s answers and post their responses to other people’s ideas. Complete this activity in silence. Then, bring the group together to discuss the insights that have emerged.

6. Heads Up. This is a variation on the Question Boards activity. As before, explain the situation to your team. But instead of putting questions on the wall, give each person in the meeting a card from the Powerful Questions Deck. Without looking at the question, each person should tape the question that he or she has been given to his or her forehead (or to a hat). Have the group walk around the room engaging in brief conversations inspired by the questions that they are wearing. At the end, gather the group back together. Each person must guess what question he or she is wearing. Afterward, host a discussion about any new insights that emerged from the activity.

7. Dinnertime Deck. According to organizational psychologist William Kahn, there are two types of conversations: genuine conversations and counterfeit ones. A counterfeit conversation is a stand-in for the real story. It’s a conversation with just enough truth to “pass” as the real thing. But counterfeit conversations only contain part of the story. When we find the courage to replace counterfeit conversations with what Kahn calls genuine conversations — conversations in which we reveal our actual experiences and true selves — progress becomes possible. You can tell which is which because counterfeit conversations often: 1) Repeat the same conversation that you’ve been having for months (or longer), 2) Elicit a more intense emotional responses than the subject warrants on the surface, or 3) Paint a situation in an overly simplistic manner, with “good guys” and “bad guys.” Keep a Powerful Questions Deck on your dinner table. The next time you notice your dinner companions (i.e., your kids, your partner, your roommates or yourself!) tiptoeing into a counterfeit conversation, draw a question from the Powerful Questions Deck and see if you can guide the conversation in a more genuine direction.

8. Conflict Resolution. The next time you find yourself mediating (or in the middle of) a conflict, bring the Powerful Questions Deck into the discussion. Ask each person to look through the deck and pick three questions that s/he would like to ask the other person. Before each person asks the questions, lay down the ground rules: First, each person must ensure that her/his intentions are pure intentions (no agenda or judgment). Second, each person must answer the question for her or himself first and be willing to share her/his answer. Third, each person must put her/his hand over her/his heart when asking the question.

9. Pen Pals. We all have people whom we wish that we could see more often. A cousin who lives across the country, a friend from college, an old mentor. Reach out to this person and suggest that you both participate in a pen-pal question exchange. To play, split the Powerful Questions Deck in half. Start by writing your pen pal a letter inspired by one card in the deck. Mail this person the letter along with the card. When your pen pal receives your letter, s/he will pick a card from her/his deck and write back. Repeat as desired.

10. Dig Deeper. The Powerful Questions Deck includes six Dig Deeper cards. Distribute one to each person on your team. Explain that anyone can play this card when s/he wants others on the team to keep exploring an idea. Encourage team members to “play” their Dig Deeper cards throughout the work day for a whole week. At the end of the week, regroup and debrief on the experience.

11. Professional Learning Group. Host a weekly or monthly discussion group for colleagues interested in deepening their professional practice. Pick an article, podcast, documentary or another source of information related to your profession. Ask everyone to read, listen or watch it in advance. Then, pick relevant questions from the Powerful Questions Deck to frame the group’s discussion.

12. Clearness Committee. For more than 300 years, Quakers have been helping members of their community access their own inner voices through a powerful type of meeting called a Clearness Committee. When someone in the community is faced with a large decision or a difficult problem, a group gathers. For two hours, the group sits together to hold a space for deep inquiry. The members of the Clearness Committee help the person connect with his or her own inner teacher by setting aside their own opinions and advice. Instead, they spend the whole meeting asking nothing but open, honest questions. Members of the committee are not allowed to make statements or ask leading questions. Use the Powerful Questions Deck to hold your own Clearness Committee. Gather a group of peers whom you trust and pass out the cards. Members of your Clearness Committee can ask you questions on the cards or their own questions.

If you’re interested in learning more or obtaining a copy of the Powerful Questions Deck to try out for yourself, you can download a copy for free here and print it out yourself or reach out to us at chris@boneducation.com to purchase a deck.