I believe in the power of questions. I believe that questions generate our most creative and important work as human beings. As children, we stack blocks to see how high the tower can grow, and, as diplomats, we gather around a table to discuss the future of our planet. In both of these moments, we stand in inquiry. I believe that, when I stand in inquiry, I can do my best work. More important, at those moments, I become my best self. But what does it mean to stand in inquiry?
It means that I ask honest questions — questions about what I must know as I move forward. My questions are rooted in honest curiosity–not in criticism or frustration or anger. It’s not about posing questions to impress, nor to make a point, but questions to inform each next action, each next step into unknown territory.
It means that I honor the questions that you are asking. It means that I listen to what you are saying but also that I listen for the various unspoken meanings that may attach themselves to your words as they go out into the world.
It means that I question my assumptions, that I take a critical look at the beliefs and biases beneath my questions. What do I really know? How do I know it? Have I considered other ways of knowing? All those questions I must ask of myself before I frame my questions for you.
Standing in inquiry means that I refuse to take it all too seriously. Questions are about play, about dancing with an idea, looking for its ticklish spots. Generative questions are posed with a smile and an open hand–an invitation to come outside and play.
So you see, standing in inquiry is not really about standing at all. It’s about living and breathing and moving forward, hand-in-hand and step-by-step–using our questions to clear the path as we move into the next moment, and the next, and the next.
And standing in inquiry means that I continue to be curious about what it will mean to stand in inquiry tomorrow.
–Leslie Patterson, August 27, 2011