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Powerful questions

Finding connections and sparking ideas

Cassie Robinson’s recent Medium post about work and time set out some of the questions occupying her thoughts. They resonated, joining a tangle of questions I’ve been considering.

For me, questions form after I’ve reflected on what I’ve heard or seen - sometimes hours or days later, maybe much longer. It’s in allowing myself time to listen, observe, reflect and make connections that I reach the epiphany of a fully formed question.

Some powerful questions I’ve encountered over the years have become part of my toolkit for making sense of the world and exploring opportunities.

What’s occupying your mind?

Variations on this theme have come up frequently, for example in relation to check-ins before workshops. It helps groups to build trust and empathy, and gauges the energy, attentiveness and emotion in a room. In a different scenario today, I was asked a variation of this - it resulted in a stream of questions forming from loosely connected ideas that had been passing in and out of my consciousness over the past couple of weeks relating to growth and equilibrium.

What problem are you working to solve?

This was a great career-shaping question, gifted to me by Zaheda Bhorat. Years ago, I had no idea how to start up conversations with organisations that I might be interested in working with. I wanted to find out if they were working on something I was excited about, and particularly to see if I could add value. I’ve been working with mission-driven organisations ever since. Of course, this question won’t give an insight into how authentic the mission is, but it’s a great opener for starting that exploration.

What did you learn?

A happy, smiling cartoon figure with arms raised in the air pressed into the rear metal case of my washing machine.

Learning to find joy in the every-day. Photo by Linda Humphries

The ever-insightful Emer Coleman dealt me this surprising doozy whilst I munched on a salad the day I returned to work after a long absence following an accident. It stood out because everyone else asked how I was doing. I suppose many people wouldn’t expect much learning to go on whilst you’re lying in bed for 3 months. But it was a massively powerful learning experience.

It was a personal and deep level of learning. There were intricacies relating to empathy for my Gran’s end of life journey, coping with the frustrations and mental health challenges of being isolated, helpless and completely reliant on others, and finding ways to keep myself buoyant. It was such a great question because it moved the journey from trauma to resilience and was a big part of my healing. It’s useful in lots of different contexts and scenarios. 

Powerful questions can build relationships, spark ideas and enable explorations. Special thanks to Emer, Zaheda and Cassie for asking brilliant questions.