Try these questions:
- What did you learn lately?
- How did you do that?
- How exactly might you use this further in future?
Try these questions:
People keep telling me that we learn most from our mistakes. I think it’s a cliché and misleadingly wrong. The only good stuff I've seen from mistakes is an appreciation not to make that same mistake again, and sometimes a sense of personal resilience - though that occurs only if the mistake is followed by a subsequent success. All the rest of the 'good stuff' - if we mean learning and creativity - comes from success, from finding out what the thing to do actually is (as distinct from what it is not, the mistake).
When we ask questions as coaches, what are we doing? Typically, question-askers appear to be on a fact-finding mission. The question prompts an answer and we have received precisely what we wanted to know. For example, ‘What time does the train leave the station?’ ‘At midday’. Great, I now know what time to be on the platform.
But coaching questions are rarely as simple as that. They invite more than answers. They invite particular ways of thinking. If we ask, ‘When did you last have a good conversation with your colleague?’, we are putting importance on ‘conversation’, suggesting that ‘good’ ones might have special relevance and directing the client’s attention to that area.
When someone asks us what seems like a slightly odd question, we might wonder ‘where are they coming from?’ or in what frame does such a question make sense to the inquirer. That can be both more interesting and more challenging than another possible response, which is to reshape their question into a more familiar one which we can easily answer.
‘How do systems learn?’ was the topic at a recent London gathering of the International Bateson Institute. Nora Bateson led us in an exploration of the ideas of her father, Gregory Bateson, about learning to learn.
It’s tempting to see learning as the acquisition of knowledge. So it would be possible to accumulate a pile of learning – for example, a stack of books is a pile of learning; the facts you can recall to answer questions during a quiz are components of learning seen in this way.