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Visual Explorer™: July 2008

July 09, 2008

Create effective framing questions for Visual Explorer sessions

Effective framing questions are the key to getting the most out of a Visual Explorer session. An effective framing question is one that elicits the right conversation. The right conversation, in most situations, is one that is open, insightful, and honest, and gets down to the essence of the challenge or topic at hand. The wrong conversation is one in which either people converse about a topic they don’t find important, or in which people avoid being open and honest.

Effective framing questions are often used in pairs, for example: What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses? Pick a card for each question ...

The first guideline for creating an effective framing question, or two, is to determine what the group really wants or needs to explore together. The group itself, or the client of the work the group is doing, may be able to propose the most meaningful questions. Good framing questions speak directly and honestly to the issues the participants care about. Good framing questions draw participants into their own personal perspectives and experiences. If the question is too general then participants may respond in general, depersonalized way. Ask, How do YOU see [this issue]? rather than What is the most important aspect of [this issue]? Compose a few alternative questions, then try them out with one or more of the participants before the session. You may be surprised at how a question can be interpreted differently from what you had in mind.

Sample framing questions (insert your own specific context):
  • What stands out for you in the data we just reviewed?
  • What are the possibilities we see in this situation?
  • What are our strengths? What are our weaknesses?
  • What is one hope you have going into this?
  • What is one fear you have going into this?
  • How do you feel about this at a gut level?
  • What does your intuition tell you?
  • What are we missing, neglecting, or under-estimating?
  • Where have we been? Where are we going? To what do we aspire?
  • What would we do if the roles were reversed?
  • What if we couldn’t invent anything new and just used what we had at hand?
  • What if one of our key assumption is wrong, or backwards?
  • How would we do this if we had unlimited resources? If we had no resources?

See also
THE ART OF POWERFUL QUESTIONS: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation, and Action by Eric E.Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs; 2003; Whole Systems Associates, Mill Valley, CA.