ARC OF PRAGMATIC INQUIRY Process:
Your Inquiry begins with defining the situation and challenges you see, needs you think you can address, and then stating your initial ideas to meet those needs. During your Inquiry, you will test those ideas, based on the evidence of your experience and learning. The outcome of the Inquiry will be to decide on the best course of action for you and your organization to test these ideas.
A major weakness of traditional problem solving approaches is the lack of awareness around the assumptions (unstated contexts or paradigms) underlying the issue — or even what the real issues are, which always involve meeting some need. This lack of awareness stems from a decision making process that fails to take into account the larger and longer-term context, align the competing and diverse views and different data around unclear questions and assumptions. This is as true for individuals as it is for groups.
That’s why we start with baseline assumptions and ideas, as well as statement of values and vision driving the Inquiry initially.
Here are the questions to set the baseline for the Inquiry:
PathFinder Pre-work Questions:
1. As you move forward, what market need, problem, issue or opportunity do you see which your organization might address? (Why is it important to you and your organization?)
2. What challenge, question, barrier, concern, problem, issue do you face in meeting this need? (Who else is your Challenge/question important to, and why?)
3. What is your preliminary answer now? (Hint: Write quickly your best guess, hunch, or thoughts…it is an hypothesis to be tested.)
4. What are your organization and personal values, beliefs, goals, purpose, competencies, etc. and how are they impacting and driving your question and your answer? (What you chose as your problem, issue, etc. is an indication of your values!)
5. Based on your answer, what action will you take? What action are you taking now?
These 5 seemingly simple questions have been tested with thousands of executives and students. They are often used by leaders to follow up on general questions about values and purpose. As an example, one professor asks students: “What is your ‘North Star’ guiding you?” Others ask why students are pursuing various programs, career paths, etc.
Then we think these questions are crucial to focus the thinking to begin a full arc of inquiry. Note that “values” are question 4. The preceding 3 questions are evidence of values. Leo Burke, Director of Executive Education at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business used the PathFinder in their work exploring values. He commented that by asking the Values question this way, we were bringing in values in a “Trojan Horse.” (See Notre Dame “Pre-work Baseline questionnaires” below.)
Here are samples of specific
Pre-work Baseline questionnaires:
Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society – for student leaders to determine “What Kind of Leader Can I Be?”
Presidio Graduate School, Executive Education Certificate in Sustainable Management: “What’s Your Big Idea?”PDF DOWNLOAD
Presidio Graduate School, UEAN Program in Presidio Graduate School, “Innovation and Sustainability Management, Silicon Valley, 2018. PDF DOWNLOAD
Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management – Leadership and Ethics course in the Executive MBA: “Ethical Leadership Challenge Inquiry” PDF DOWNLOAD
University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business – Executive Integral Leadership Program: “How will you add value to your organization?”PDF DOWNLOAD
We publish these under the Creative Commons permission to encourage others to experiment with the line of questioning, and share their experiences with our Pragmatic Inquiry Community. That is how these seemingly simple – but philosophically rigorous – wording and order of these questions evolved. So, if you use them, please let us know how they are working, and in what context. See case histories:
Let us know what your questions, challenges, problems, issues are that you think Pragmatic Inquiry might help you address.