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Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,444 ratings  ·  271 reviews
The Key to Effective Communication

Communication is essential in a healthy organization. But all too often when we interact with people—especially those who report to us—we simply tell them what we think they need to know. This shuts them down. To generate bold new ideas, to avoid disastrous mistakes, to develop agility and flexibility, we need to practice Humble Inquiry.

Paperback, 144 pages
Published September 30th 2013 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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I am getting more and more convinced that big, systemic change takes root in conscious but modest shifts in behaviour and thought. The argument developed in this short book confirms this: asking the right questions, from an authentic attitude of respect and curiosity, is the basis for building trusting relationships; trust facilitates better task-related communication and, thereby, ensures collaboration to get the job done. Humble Inquiry is particularly important given that organisations and co ...more
Lê Phúc
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
The idea is great and insightful. However, that could be easily covered by one chapter, not the whole book. The author repeat himself quite a lot.
Ajit Kumar
Feb 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
I have finished reading first four chapters. Really impressive and practical. As rightly pointed out in the book, we are accustomed to the culture of telling. Teamwork based on Inquiry -- specifically, Humble Inquiry, is difficult, but well worth the effort, especially if you're in a leadership position.

Update: I completed reading it. Really impressive, though I feel that some of the later chapters are repetition of what is mentioned in the first few chapters. Nevertheless, it serves and import
Richard Newton
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I rather liked this little book. I've been a fan of Schein's thinking for a long time, since I was first introduced to his ideas on Process Consulting when I was a junior management consultant, (I know, we all have things in our pasts that are embarrassing!).

This is a very easy read with deceptively simple advice, but summarises decades of experience on what really brings people and teams together, and what avoids the significant problems that result from a failure of people to effectively comm
Jerry Jennings
Relationships grow when people learn about and appreciate each other. I believe that many of us can benefit from being very intentional about reaching out and getting to know each other in our work places, communities and even families.
Edgar H. Schein in his new book: Humble Inquiry: the Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling (2013) writes, “Why is it so important to learn to ask better questions that help to build positive relationships? Because in an increasingly complex, interdependent, and
Nov 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Mish-mash of advice that can be found in many other books I’ve read so I found it boring. What the author says isn’t wrong (“be humble”) but I worry that he omits things that are based on more solid evidence than his anecdotal experiences. For instance, he talks a lot about OR teams. I think that the checklist approach, which he sort of pooh-poohs, makes a lot more sense than relying on all the staff in the hospital to get to know each other personally.
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Bernd Schiffer
Fascinating! Lots to ponder. Decided to read it again immediately after I finished it.
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: denison-bookclub
The author sends a clear and singular message that mastering the art of a humble inquiry is the key to effective communication, but I am left with more questions than answers after having read this book. Are humble inquiries the best method in all scenarios? A variety of cases were presented (e.g., hierarchical, cultural) in which a humble inquiry could clarify or alleviate otherwise precarious dialogue, but I wondered how conversations in this manner could lead to solutions or actions without b ...more
Dec 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The value of asking questions based in genuine curiosity and interest (rather than telling people what you think) in building relationships, particularly for the person with higher status in the relationship. The author was a business school professor and a consultant, and the work is addressed to leaders in various positions, the type of people he might have helped professionally. Also, I felt he was used to presenting his material to largely male audiences. Nonetheless, there are many insights ...more
Shawna LeBlond
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pd
I read this for a professional development seminar. It was really interesting and made me think about a lot of my interactions as a manager and as a coworker. I think a lot of time we do not want to find the root of the problem instead we want to offer a quick fix solution, but without addressing underlying issues the problems will continue to arise. I thought this book provided a lot of great insight on how to effectively use questioning communication as a form of building trusting relationship ...more
Kristian Norling
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
How to be curious and humbly ask questions. A very humanistic approach on how to treat others, that also points to the need to show others that you are vulnerable, in order to build trust. Ends with a great chapter on how to develop an attitude of humble inquiry.

A short, concise and recommended read.
Ralf Kruse
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's impressive on how the right type of inquiry can make such a difference. Really enjoyed reading it. So much great insights on so many levels. ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m not in the corporate world, but I still enjoyed what this book had to give. It had practical tips to have better, open conversations.
Shevon Quijano
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Edgar H. Schein encourages leaders to

“...create the climate that gives permission for the help to be given” as expressed by “drawing someone out [and] asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”

I absolutely loved his idea that I need to “access my ignorance” in order to lead conversations and decisions. So often leaders think that they need to pretend to know everything when they can achieve much
Laurence Freeman
Apr 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Quite a good read, only approximately 100 pages so you can get through it in an afternoon. The first half of the book was rather excellent, the author touched on how to rephrase questions to be less leading, rhetorical and negative; to be more open, genuine and positive. The later half of the book went a bit too much into physco-sociology for my liking. Although I appreciated some nods to game theory and learnt about the Johari Window, I felt like that wasn't the reason I bought this book.

A perh
Kyle Bremner
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book centres around a simple concept - take the time to listen and ask why. It introduces various concepts to understand why this might be difficult for others, or for yourself, to do. It also introduces a model around different types of inquiry, based on the situation and those involved in the scenario. It also suggests some ways to encourage humble inquiry in those around you.

Probably the biggest issue when reading it was the range of concepts that were created - I, at least, started to fi
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, work
I think I tend toward (humble?) inquiry especially in my work, so the bigger ideas here weren't especially groundbreaking for me, but the clear articulation of them was helpful and validating. I don't think I learned a lot that'll change my behaviors, but I nodded a lot while reading. Like the best business books, this one takes a set of pretty simple ideas and explains them simply (but not patronizingly); in this case, the technique helps turn a more abstract sense or feeling about how we ought ...more
Jun 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
If you're a rich, white, male, out-of-touch executive stuck on an extra-long layover in a crummy airport, this is just the reading for you!

In short: don't be a jerk. Get to know your reports. They have value as human beings.

0/5 do not recommend, unless you're a sociopath???
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lovely little read and good reminder of the importance of asking instead of telling to build trusted relationships.
Voranc Kutnik
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Short, clear, concise and actionable.
Lori Neff
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good review of concepts around asking helpful questions and listening respectfully.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Simple yet powerful message - and several questions that I will try on in my own life.
Ralf Kruse
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read the book years ago. In the first round I struggled to get some of the key aspects of the book.
The view on here-and-now humility and the perspective on how humble inquiries can change your own perspective, the perspective of others and whole systems struck me, when I re-read it recently.
Erika RS
Apr 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: kindle, leadership, owned
Well, at least it was short.

This book had two key problems. The first is that it was not particularly coherent. Schein covered a number of different elements that were all loosely related and tried to make them all be linked by the concept of humble inquiry. This didn't quite work, and instead I came away with an "it slices, it dices, it even makes julienne fries!" vibe. The last few chapters were especially hard to get through because they almost didn't even make sense.

The second is that much
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: od
Another great entry from Schein, who has cornered the market on demystifying human relations, especially in organizations. How do you cultivate a relationship in which information can be shared, based on genuine interest and respect? A great companion to reading on building trust and psychological safety.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
Reasonable approach to mindful interactions in personal and professional life, pulling on a number of other threads: psychology, organizational behavior, culture, and popular literature. It meanders (but not delightfully) and the core message could be well-delivered as a long essay.
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, psychology
less telling, more asking, and better listening
The U.S. culture is strongly built on the tacit assumptions of pragmatism, individualism, and status through achievement… Given those cultural biases, doing and telling are inevitably valued more than asking and relationship building.
“Humble inquiry is the skill and the art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”

Retired M
Pedro Limeira
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Even though I think the way of dealing with others proposed on this book goes way beyond any kind of method or directions, I really liked to see the picture it draws of the culture that is all around us.

The task-oriented culture implies a lack of attention to relationship issues, and that, in turn, ends up dampening the task accomplishment. Another thing that got my attention was the fact that we tend to act strategically when facing situations that might put our knowledge to proof. Why would I
Feb 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
In my workplace, we often speak of putting on our humility pants. The reality is that sometimes we are so wrapped up in what we need to accomplish, we miss each other, or do something stupid, or fail to ask the right and necessary questions. Figuratively putting on and announcing that we are putting on our humility pants signals a different intention, and makes the shift required a little easier, asking ourselves to be more mindful of what is and what is not and the limits of our knowing.

Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty short book that probes the art of asking questions that invite people into meaningful conversations with the express purpose of building authentic relationships. Practicing humble inquiry requires you to recognize and push beyond any biases or snap judgments that could lead you to make statements that shut down instead of open up conversations. The book only spends a brief time looking at the technique of humble inquiry because the concept is easy to grasp. Instead, it explores ...more
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HUMBLE INQUIRY | ...: SESSION 1 RECORDING 1 2 Apr 29, 2021 04:37PM  
HUMBLE INQUIRY | ...: First Session Feedback | Ideas Chapter 1 to 3 2 4 Apr 29, 2021 04:23PM  
HUMBLE INQUIRY | ...: Basic Idea | Preface 6 9 Apr 28, 2021 06:51PM  

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Edgar Schein is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and a Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Schein investigates organizational culture, process consultation, research process, career dynamics, and organization learning and change. In Career Anchors, third edition (Wiley, 2006), he shows how individuals can diagnose their own career needs and how man

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