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August 31st, 2015

With questions, you get what you ask for. In an era when computers are getting better at answering questions, we need people who are getting better at asking questions – Mike Vaughan, CEO, The Regis Company

By Ron Nakamoto

In this TEDx Talk, Mike Vaughan explains a correlation between asking "how" questions, the process of learning, and the ability of teams to adapt and solve problems. Vaughan's company, The Regis Company, applies neuroscience to create business simulations for teaching questioning and learning skills. As the video describes, their basic model juxtaposes "What" questions with "How" questions. Vaughan explains:

"When people have a lot of 'what to think' training and they're placed in these simulations and they're confronted with the problems that they face in the real world, most participants resorted to guessing…when we give them more data, tools, checklists, choices, their decision-making did not improve. If anything, it got worse."

Vaughan has discovered that top performers use language well in order to ask deeper questions. He has found that these top performers are able to suspend judgement in order to understand someone else's perspective, reducing conflict, developing a common language, and creating a shared vision. He also discovered that deeper questions can evoke powerful feelings such as uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and stress. Furthermore, he's discovered that those top performers who embrace and understand that these feelings are part of the natural learning process are the ones who can create an adaptive, collaborative learning environment.

I'm reminded of the Empowered Wealth concept "The Empowering Question", asking "Can I" or "How might I" instead of engaging in positive affirmations. Vaughan's talk adds additional insights into what might become a more empowering decision-making process.

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