Introducing Questionable Meetings3 minute read

On Thursday 5 June 2014, at Sanford Housing Cooperative, I called what I believe was the first ever Questionable Meeting: a meeting in which participants are only allowed to speak in the interrogative mood.

Questions have a habit of generating unexpected ideas. It is very hard to come up with good ideas if you’re just asked to come up with good ideas, but if you’re asked to come up with good questions, then the ideas flow naturally.

In life there is no such thing as a final answer, only better questions.

Rules of the Game

“All games have rules; it’s what distinguishes them from real life.”
T.P. Ruount

There is only one rule at a Questionable Meeting:

Participants may only speak in the interrogative mood, i.e. they may only ask questions.

There is, of course, one exception that makes the rule:

Participants may also use the exclamatory phrase, “Good question!”

Why?

“A child who is always asking “Why? Why? Why?” shows not their ignorance, but their wisdom.”
Dr Ros Wandkalf

a. Meetings are often charged with “know-it-all” ego-driven solutionising. The truth is that the best answers are very rarely those thought of on the spur of the moment. By removing the possibility of any instant answers to any questions, we remove snap judgements and improve the likelihood of a reasoned, thoughtful, considerate response outside of the meeting.

b. Meetings can be dominated by those who enjoy speaking, showing off how much they know or how important they are. In a Questionable Meeting, no one can speak without donning the cap of humility. To speak, you must concede that you don’t have all the answers. There are no categorically “right” answers in life, so in this meeting, we listen and question.

c. By posing questions without trying to answer them, the subconscious brain is activated. Perhaps, after a good night’s sleep or a week’s quiet rumination, a more creative answer will emerge from the depths of your subconscious. Or perhaps not.

Strategies

“Strategy, after all, is only one strategy.”
The Turquoise Empress, Xiaoling

  • Start each meeting with a period of silence. From the silence, reasonable questions shall emerge.
  • If desired, the meeting can then proceed to setting the Questionable Agenda: ten minutes in which participants can ask broad, thematic questions, which shall form the interrogative basis of the rest of the meeting. Alternatively, a Questionable Meeting could be called to query a specific theme, couched, naturally, as a question. For example: “How can Sanford help other housing cooperatives?”.
  • There are no bad, wrong or stupid questions. If you think there are, then you are either bad, wrong or stupid.
  • After each question, leave a respectful pause. Don’t barrel in with your oh-so-important question.
  • Make sure you are really listening to each question; allow it to sink deep into your subconscious. If in doubt, count to ten in your head.
  • No participant may attempt to provide any answer or solution to a question.
  • No participant should pass judgement on a question. Particularly not using body language, sighing, huffing, etc..
  • The questions shall be recorded, if desired, and Questionable Minutes, consisting solely of a list of questions asked, circulated by a Questionable Secretary.
  • Participants may ask questions about the questions. These cannot be answered, of course.
  • If you would prefer, the question can be written down and put into a Questionable Hat, for minuting by the Questionable Secretary. NOTE: Written notes will not reach the subconscious of other members, only yourself.
  • Think about your questions carefully. Be clear and concise. This respects the brains of the other participants and will inspire better subconscious responses.

One more thing…

If you liked this post, then you’ll almost certainly enjoy my newsletter. You can check out the most recent issue on Substack. See ya there - dc:

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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