Telling a group, "we're going to play a game" is a great way to enact an experience that both suspends disbelief and reveals something simple and true. After just five minutes, nearly 50 questions were generated to a quote that many would consider a metaphor.
On this day of the summer school program we paused our round of the The Good Question Game (The Right Question Formulation Technique) and looked upon our amazing list of questions.
The next step of the RQFT is for the group to improve the list of questions by reviewing them. The scribe writes a "C" or an "O" next to each question to indicate whether it is considered an open-ended or closed-ended question. The group is asked to change at least one closed-ended question into an open-ended question and at least one open-ended question into a closed-ended question. Like, "was there food?" could become "what kinds of foods were served on the ship?" This group didn't have to change many ?s from O to C or C to O. Food or no food? That's what they wanted to know. "Why did they come on different ships?" That's what they wanted to know.
"Did everyone get along?" No.
But also, "What was going on in the boat?" Now that takes time to answer, which is the whole point. It requires imagination to create a scenario in our mind, to see who is in that picture. It takes humility and curiosity to connect with others to get their story. It takes patience. It takes commitment.
Improving a list of questions, as a group, is a discretionary, deliberative process. There is an implicit commitment to consensus when there is a greater sense of purpose to the refinement of questions. In this context, everyone present was united in their direct experience of being in the same boat (place) having arrived on different ships (countries). One of them would be counting the different "ships" that they came from (around 10).
Using the Right Question Formulation Technique, prompts individuals and/or small groups to prioritize the list of improved questions. Participants are asked to notice where, in the sequence of the list of questions, their priority questions came from -- the beginning? the middle? the end? What might this mean, when in the process a group generates their most important questions?
With a short list of priority questions in hand, individuals hold their own, personalized curriculum in hand, whether in the classroom, boardroom, town square. The next time (and the next time) the group convenes, the process of discovery unfolds through active sharing. Motivation flows freely when each person feels a part of a whole and when there is no race to a right answer.
On this day of the summer school program, I could tell I was with a crowd whose heads might be in the clouds but would also be in the seats. They might be ideologizing but they would also be remembering. They could be theorizing but they would also be commentating first for themselves and then for others.
If The Good Question Game is competitive, it is a race against time in order to get a powerful capture of the shared wonder in the room.
It is a non-hierarchical and generative experience. This is not merely a feel-good, procedural point. It is a vital commentary and description of a dynamic, shared learning process.
If we want to protect the open mind from attack, then we have to keep out the yardstick of self-justifying rightness. That begins with ourselves. The mastery of the open mind begins in the humble reverence of not knowing.
Participants in a group -- any group -- walk away from the experience with tendrils of curiosity thirsty for answers. The children will go in search of water.
On this day of the summer school program, they would be remembering and quickly thinking, "what's next?"