Open ended questions for speed dating
In this article, we draw on insights from behavioral science research to explore how the way we frame questions and choose to answer our counterparts can influence the outcome of conversations.We offer guidance for choosing the best type, tone, sequence, and framing of questions and for deciding what and how much information to share to reap the most benefit from our interactions, not just for ourselves but for our organizations.
In our teaching at Harvard Business School, we run an exercise in which we instruct pairs of students to have a conversation.Much of an executive’s workday is spent asking others for information—requesting status updates from a team leader, for example, or questioning a counterpart in a tense negotiation.Yet unlike professionals such as litigators, journalists, and doctors, who are taught how to ask questions as an essential part of their training, few executives think of questioning as a skill that can be honed—or consider how their own answers to questions could make conversations more productive. Questioning is a powerful tool for unlocking value in companies: It spurs learning and the exchange of ideas, it fuels innovation and better performance, and it builds trust among team members.Questions are such powerful tools that they can be beneficial—perhaps particularly so—in circumstances when question asking goes against social norms.For instance, prevailing norms tell us that job candidates are expected to answer questions during interviews.
And it can mitigate business risk by uncovering unforeseen pitfalls and hazards.