A couple of years ago, one of my mentors taught me a couple of good “tools” to faciliate good discussion. Today, I was telling someone about them and I thought they were worth sharing. I have used these on countless occasions and they have served me well. Give them a try and let me know what you think.
The Magic Wand question
This question is simple, yet powerful:
“If you could wave a magic wand, what would I be doing for you?” or
“If you could wave a magic wand, what would I be doing differently?”
The nature of this question makes it ideal for uncovering requirements, unlocking expectations, and determining someone’s ideal situation. I think the notion of a magic wand gets people to think a bit more boldly, since they don’t necessarily have to think about practical constraints.
“An argument could be made…”
When you’re dealing with a touchy subject it can sometimes be difficult to have an objective discussion. Rather than saying things like, “I think you should…” or “Here’s what I would do…” try reframing the statement by beginning with: “An argument could be made…”
This subtle shift can make the question feel less personal, and you are more likely to have an objective discussion about the topic. For example: compare the following statements:
“An argument could be made to scrap this project completely – what are the implications of that?”
“I think we should kill the project.”
Which approach is more likely to drive a productive discussion?