the servant question

1 when everyone

‘Part of being able to tackle complex and difficult questions is accepting there is nothing wrong with not knowing.  People who are good at questioning are comfortable with uncertainty.’*

When we ask the questions no one else has asked we get to serve another, a Human community, the world and its species.

There’s no desire to take on the mantle of an expert, except that belonging to the art of unknowing, characterised by the need to ask questions.

Asking questions is a slow art, at odds with a fast world.

Have you noticed how there’s never a right time to ask fundamental questions; there’s always some urgency tearing people towards finding a fast solution.  I was in a meeting earlier this week which found itself exactly in this place.

This thinking around the way in which questions slow things down has helped to crystallise my own work: making slow-thinking time available to people so they can identify, explore, and create.

We need opportunities to slow down, step back, and to shift perspective, and see the better way.

Peter Senge’s** work offers valuable thinking in the form of his identifying reinforcing, balancing, and innovative loops within systems.  The reinforcing loop describes the need to keep doing what we do in a changing world (e.g.: fewer resources, escalating bills, damage to the planet).  To this is added a balancing loop, often ignored (e.g.: pressure on the fewer people to produce the same amount of goods in a competitive sector) which is destroying people’s wellbeing.  The innovative loop explores another way of going about business; a key word here is “delay” – things have to be slowed down to find better response (e.g., instead of a green label on a bottle to suggest being eco-friendly, why not use less water to produce what’s in the bottle?).

Questions, like fires, are the under appreciated servant to all of this, and, in the same way, they can transform:

‘It is everywhere in the margins; only rarely is fire itself the subject or theme.’^

(*From Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question.)
(**The Necessary Revolution.)
(^From Stephen Pyne’s Fire.)


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