I’ve been thinking a lot about questions lately.
My mind is always pondering things. Wondering who, what, why, how and when. I’m always “chewing the cud” so to speak. Thinking about how to improve things. Make them better. Make them more authentic and genuine. Make them more effective, efficient and experiential.
I think it’s healthy to ask questions of some staid traditions from time to time. It’s a good thing to revisit why and how we do things. I believe we should take some institutionalized practices and hang a question mark on them.
The right question, asked at the right time can lead to some amazing insights, reflections and thoughts.
Yet in today’s society, honest questions can often lead to ricocheted reprimands. Why is that? What causes that emotional rebound when someone asks an authentic question? Why do we get defensive if someone asks a candid question? Is it because we may not have an answer? Is it because we feel that we are being threatened?
In the association and meetings industries, basic questions like, “What are we inviting people to do?” and “What would happen if we treated our conference attendees like a community?” may be welcomed or repelled. I wish they were welcomed more.
In the association and meetings industries, some people ask death-questions.
- Who’s in charge here?
- How can we prevent or slow down change?
- Why can’t these people just fit in and do things the way we’ve always done them?
- Where can we cut expenses?
- Why would you want to change something that is working?
- Who’s accountable for that?
Maybe death-questions are a necessary stage in the dying that precedes new life.
Some organization leaders and conference organizers ask life-questions.
- How do we deal with diversity that often comes with growth?
- How do we create an experience of a Cheers-like event that has become a very large conference where people don’t know everyone’s name?
- How do we do mass-customize for each and every attendee?
- What needs do people bring to our association? Our event? Our meetings?
- What will tomorrow look like?
- What do our members and conference attendees need of us?
- What’s next?
When was the last time that you attended a staff, a Board of Directors or an annual association membership meeting where you did nothing but ask provoking questions? What if we were all invited to ask probing, honest questions without anyone responding? What if we were all given the opportunity to frame the questions, as well as to answer them? What if we put the tough questions on the table for everyone to ponder until the next meeting?
What if we made a fervent plea for more dialogue and less decision-making? What if yes or no questions were not allowed? What if we encouraged reflection, musing and contemplation vs. shooting an idea down?
For me that would be refreshing. For I think we often get caught up in finding and giving the right answers.
Wisdom = knowing when a decision needs to be made and when to ponder
Part of wisdom, I think, is knowing when a decision needs to be made. There are times when the right choice is to be perplexed and to ponder. We may need to “chew the cud” as we witness something new, something totally beyond our tradition or experience. This new thing may frighten us because we’ve not experienced it before and we don’t know how it will end.
Resorting to old death-questions won’t be enough. Citing what we used to know won’t be enough.
The authentic response might be to question, and, in time accept. Questioning won’t satisfy the fervent or political. It might give us an opening to hear something we haven’t already heard yet or considered.
What death-questions annoy you the most? What life-questions would you like to ask your professional association, nonprofit or conference organizers?