Inquiry is Essential

Inquiry. It is essential to changing the world—for yourself and for the greater good!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead

Over the past month or so, I have written posts about this quote. The first post talked about Complex Adaptive Systems. The second post explored Interdependent Pairs, and Pattern Spotters was the focus of the third.

This week I want to talk about Inquiry, the practices that we use to explore and make sense of complexity that shapes our world. In each step of an Adaptive Action, inquiry helps you move forward. It is a part—intentionally or not—of thoughtful practice that any “small group of thoughtful . . .citizens” must employ to change the world. I recognize that is a strong statement, but I do believe it to be true. If you are not standing in inquiry, how can you:

  • Recognize that there’s a challenge that needs to be addressed? Inquiry is that niggling voice in the back of your mind that points to what is not working. Inquiry pushes us to explore our worlds as we look for greater fit for ourselves, our families, our communities.
  • Make sense of the challenges you face, understanding them in ways that point to possible next steps? True inquiry helps you explore deeply into challenges. You look for answers about your situation. Use Inquiry to quell the distractions that emerge in your search. Become curious. Engage even your enemies in finding a solution. Check your own involvement and engagement. Recognize  assumptions that frame your perspective.
  • Identify and select viable actions that fit the situation and point to your next step forward? Finding the most fit response requires that you ask questions of yourself (and others, maybe). Consider your own scope or reach. Consider potential impacts for others—positive, neutral, and negative. Ask yourself who else can come with you to support this step. Review the resources you have available to see if it’s enough. Explore the merits of one option against another. Questions like those help you select your next wise action.
  • Know how you will measure or judge the success or impact of this action and its usefulness in moving toward your vision of what’s possible? If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how will you know if you find it? As you work to implement your next wise action, you have to remain in inquiry, asking about new patterns, old patterns, responses, and other indicators of impact of your last step. Inquiry brings you full circle to your Next What?. It guides your continued work in this iterative cycle of observation, action, and learning.

Inquiry is essential, and people have always asked questions. It is the only way to change the world, and it’s more than just asking questions. It is a way of being in the world. It is a way of standing in your space, open to the world around you. It allows you to find alignment in the most difficult of situations. Through inquiry, you gain deeper insights into your own responses. Inquiry invites you to step beyond your own assumptions to see the world more clearly.

I invite you to use the HSD practices of Inquiry:

  • Turn judgment into curiosity
  • Turn disagreement into shared exploration
  • Turn defensiveness into self-reflection
  • Turn assumptions into questions

Try it for a day or two, at least. Let us know how your world changes. Then try it for a lifetime and see how you change the world for others, as well.

Be in touch!


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