Which Do You Prefer: Questions or Answers?

As a manager, when would you prefer to ask a question and when would you prefer to give answers?

Can you think of an example or a situation in which someone you know gave an answer when they should have been asking questions or vise versa?

The brain responds differently to questions and to answers. Questions trigger a type of memory that encodes experiences and translates them into applicable learning, while answers trigger knowledge-based learning that merely leads to storage of knowledge. In scientific terms the type of learning we refer to as experience-based learning is encoded in a system called implicit memory and knowledge-based learning is stored in a system called explicit memory. Implicit memory works very differently than explicit memory in many ways. One way is that it must be learner initiated, and questions play beautifully into that category.

While we can learn explicitly when someone else initiates the doing (by observation, imitation and, of course, by collecting knowledge, listening to others, sharing knowledge etc.), implicit memory requires that the learner initiates the experience. Notice I did not say the leaner needs to DO the experience (implicit learning can be done as we initiate learning around someone else’s experience – ain’t that cool?) but it MUST be initiated by the learner to be acquired, hence the importance of questions.

Questions are not the only way to engage experience-based learning and implicit memory. Stories or memories initiated by the team or by the individual we are trying to support, work with great results too.

Where can you add more questions in a way that would serve you? What would you do to increase “learner initiated” interactions to optimize the acquisition of new abilities?


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