Tag Archives: 2012september

Questions are bigger than answers


I believe that the issues we face today regarding the economy, educating our youth, reducing poverty, developing the good health of our citizens and many others issues are complex. I also worry that many of us are looking for simple answers to complex realities.

I think our abiltiy to stay engaged with tough questions and following them where they lead us, over time, will be important to us in bringing about needed and transformational change.

Ignorance: How It Drives Science by Stuart Firestein he asks: “Are we too enthralled with answers these days?  Are we afraid of questions, especially those that linger too long?  We seem to have come to a phase of civilization marked by a voracious appetite for knowledge, in which the growth of information is exponential and, perhaps more important, its availability is easier and faster than ever.”

He goes on to state, “Questions are more relevant than answers. Questions are bigger than answers.  One good question can give rise to several layers of answers, can inspire decades-long searches for solutions, can generate whole new fields of inquiry, and can prompt changes in entrenched thinking.  Answers, on the other hand, often end the process.”

Both quotes are from page 11 of Ignorance: how It Drives Science.

The Value of Ignorance


Stuart Firestein, the author of Ignorance: How It Drives Science uses the word ignorance, at least in part, to be intentionally provocative.  But let’s take a moment to define the kind of ignorance that Firestein is referring to it, because ignorance as many bad connotations, especially in common usage, and he doesn’t mean any of those.  That “kind of ignorance is willful stupidity; worse than simple stupidity, it is a callow indifference to facts or logic.  It shows itself as a stubborn devotion two uninformed opinions, ignoring (same route) contrary ideas, opinions, or data.  The ignorant are unaware, unenlightened, uninformed, and surprisingly often occupy elected offices.  We can all agree that none of this is good.”*

Knowledge is built on facts. We know a lot because there is considerable knowledge out there for all of us to benefit from.  AND there is a lot we don’t know yet.  It may seem strange to suggest that NEW knowledge is often built on the edges of our ignorance.  Thinking deeply about our ignorance becomes a potentially productive endeavor.

Firestein makes the point that: “The facts serve mainly to access the ignorance.  You use those facts to frame a new question . . .  In other words, scientists don’t concentrate on what they know, which is considerable but also minuscule, but rather on what they’d don’t know.  The one big fact is that science traffics in ignorance, cultivates it, and is driven by it.”**

Being the positive person I try to be, I have to admit that I find ignorance to be a powerful driving force.  I am the kind of person who wants to move forward and make a difference for the common good.  That means that to effectively serve the common good we have to be willing to go to the edge of our knowledge and explore the possible next steps for change.  That means we will not know if all our actions or even what we may focus on, related to forward movement, will prove to be fruitful for the common good.  Yet, being willing to move into the  edges of ignorance  is where potential lies.

*Page 6 of  ** Page 15 of Ignorance: How It Drives Success

Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Frame for Moving into the Furture

How a leader show up matters.  What a leader believe matters.  The leader’s ‘frame’ makes a difference.   Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Kae Rader in their book: Apprecitive Leadership help leaders to develop their skills and attitudes related to helping to bring about positive systemic change.  The following four attributes are those common to leaders who approach systemic change from an Appreciative Inquiry point of view.

Leaders who choose appreciative inquiry as their vehicle for positive change had the following four things in common.

1.     They’re willing to engage with other members of their organization or community to create a better way of doing business or living.

2.     They are willing to learn and change.

3.     These leaders truly believe in the power of the positive.

4.     These leaders cared about people, often describing the work of their organization or business in terms of helping people learn, grow, and develop.  Pages xvii to xix

Appreciative Leadership: Focus on What Works to Drive Winning Performance and Build a Thriving Organization by Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Kae Rader, 2010

Engaging in Conversations where Transformation has the Potential of Occurring

The following are the thoughts of Peter Block from his book: Community: The Structure of Belonging, 2008, page 98.  When we want to collaborate and connect we need to be able to have significant conversations.  Block provided me with powerful food for thought about potentially transformative conversations. Conversations that will lead to interdependent thinking. Conversations that count.

To say that the future is dependent on having conversations we have not had before does not mean that any new conversation will make a difference.  So what specific kinds of conversations can create the relatedness an accountability that are the heart of a restorative context?

 To create a community of accountability and belonging, we seek conversations where the following is true:

            An intimate an authentic relatedness is experienced.

           The world is shifted through invitation rather than


           The focus is on the communal possibility.

There is a shift in ownership of this place, even though

others are in charge.

Diversity of thinking and dissent are given space.

Commitments are made without barter.

The gifts of each person and our community are

acknowledged and valued.

These are the specific conversations that are central to communal transformation.  It is when we choose to speak of invitation, possibility, ownership, dissent, commitment, and gifts that transformation occurs.  This is the speaking and listening that is the linguistic shift that changes the context through which community can be restored and traditional problem solving and development can make the difference.




Think about how you can work better with others.

Then work better with others.

Collaboration is a good thing!

Here is what some other people think about collaboration:

1. “It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin

2. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

3. “If two men on the same job agree all the time, then one is useless. If they disagree all the time, both are useless.” – Darryl F. Zanuck

4. “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

5. “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

6. “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton