Holding questions

I’ve learnt a lot from Chris Corrigan and the way I’ve learnt it has been interesting to me.

For example I’d hear Chris emphasise that facilitation is a practice. At first I was a bit puzzled by this idea, I got that he meant something important, had a vague sense of what it might be, and was left wondering exactly what he meant. Rather than push him for a detailed answer, I left it hanging as question. And you know what? Over time, I’ve found myself growing a strong sense of what it means to me and now find myself advocating it too. Being a practice – for me – is in part about commitment to the work, and to understanding that it can never be perfected. I try not make facilitation about success and getting it right, but to do it well and stay open to mistakes, failures and the learning they bring. I said similar stuff here. But I still can’t give you a perfect explanation, because I still find myself exploring what this idea of facilitation-as- practice means to me.

Second example: Chris would talk about “holding questions”. Again, my first reaction was: eh? It sounded a bit crazy to me, but just sensible enough to leave me with this puzzle, what would be good about that?. I was probably only just on the curious side of cynical. And again over time, I’ve started to get clearer, and more enthusiastic about the idea of sitting with questions instead of always anxiously demanding answers. Today, Chris write a bit more about the practice of holding questions, which is, you’ll probably have noticed, what this post is all about.

We’re often very attached to certainty, and to ending meetings with “definite outcomes” and sometimes end up with matching language. (My friend James quips about a meeting where everyone agreed that what they needed was a “measurable, implementable, deliverable”). Sometimes leaving with a good question is much more engaging, even if at first it’s a bit frustrating.

2 thoughts on “Holding questions

  1. Deborah Khan

    I love the idea of questions as outcomes- I often use questions to frame sessions rather than horrendous “learning objectives” as I am convinced it keeps the engagment active. That is particpants create their own responses, in their words and their time frame that may not be now, within this next three hours etc.

    The tension is of course, how do we maintain this in a climate of quick turnaround and accountability. So much of my work is about producing, as you say, a sepcific, measurable implementation plan.

    As a practice, rather than a skill is a very good concept.

  2. Kye Swenson

    I love the question theory. In my company, we often write newsletters and other articles which require a lot of brainstorming. Some of the writers have a tendency to go right to the manager and ask specific questions about the industry at hand. We now have a mandatory process that writers put all their questions down on a sheet of paper and look at them for at least ten minutes. Each person reviews the questions and formulates his or her own answer before resorting to the lead man. Many times, writers solve their own questions and if not, it makes discussions with upper management much quicker!


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