Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Asking how

How is a difficult question to answer. Explaining how is harder than answering what or why or who questions. You can ask people
What did you do?
and they might tell you what they think they did or what they want you to think they did:
  • they organised
  • I asked
  • they wrote
  • he interviewed
  • they reported
  • they met, talked
  • I shared this document
  • they offered us a deal
  • she nipped it in the bud
  • they emailed
  • they asked
  • she phoned
  • we saved this money
  • they formed relationships at n levels
  • they painted or stated or communicated a vision
  • they got distracted or called away
  • they've worked with organisations
  • they've become disillusioned
  • I've helped people learn or understand
  • they've laid out a strategy
  • they've tested an idea
  • they changed
  • they get heated
  • they promised they could deliver
  • they pulled the wool over our eyes
  • we ended up with a partner
  • we played through the options
  • he tried to explain, tried to talk, tried to deal
  • they got threatened by the changes
  • she got involved in the detail
  • they responded to issues
But ask
How did you do it?
And they tell you that they did it:
  • confidently
  • carefully
  • assertively
  • cost effectively
or even that they understood strategically or they struggled to understand strategically. I still don't know how they engaged.

But they don't tell you that; they tell you what. They answer with what, so you have to word your questions to elicit 'hows', how your interviewee did it and how your interviewee perceived others doing it. So it's a construction of a construction that I'm reconstructing, and I don't know that what I eventually construct will have any validity at all.

I'm not sure I've got any answer to my question.

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