Incisive Questions

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Credit: Patrick Tomasso

In a Thinking Environment, Incisive Questions allow you to take a leap of faith, liberating you (at least for a while) from an untrue limiting assumption you’ve been dragging around.

This is potentially the most transformational of all the Thinking Environment processes, because it’s both an application and a component.

This is a stepped process that you can work through yourself, but it’s so much more powerful to do your thinking alongside others engaged in the same endeavour, benefiting from the gift of each others’ generative attention. That way, you can do your best thinking and move on from what’s holding you back.

1. Identifying the Goal

Step 1 is identifying a goal that you can work with – straighforward, succinct. As big as you like, as long as doesn’t catch itself up in a binary. Try to keep it to seven words or less, so that it can easily slide into the questioning framework.

2. Identifying the Block

Now it’s time to dig deep. This is you tunnelling towards the bedrock assumption, the one that is untrue but even in its untruth still dominates the way you live your life. Here is the heart of the Thinking Environment’s genius: “What are you assuming that is stopping you from/making you*…[INSERT GOAL]”

*delete as appropriate

3. Hunting Assumptions

Step 2 takes up the most time…identifying all those assumptions that are holding you back (or making you feel). We can only work on one at once, which is why each time you’ll choose the one that is most stopping you (or making you). You can always circle back round to the others.

4. Leaping Forward

Once you’ve found the untrue limiting assumption (you may have to dig underneath other assumptions but yes, you will recognise it) it’s time to turn it on its head. The liberating alternative is not merely the passive opposite of the untrue limiting assumption, it’s a powerful alternative that smashes it out of the water and allows you to move forward.

Form this alternative into a true liberating alternative:

“If you knew that [LIBERATING ALTERNATIVE], how/what would you…?”

Incisive Questions are one of the Ten Components of a Thinking Environment. They are powerfully useful in all aspects of life and in their incisiveness save time too: instead of your brain whirling round the loop it is guided to what is really stopping you.

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