Schein’s ‘Humble Inquiry’ – Old Ideas Rehashed. Thank Goodness!

Scheins Humble InquiryAfter reading Edgar Schein’s latest book (Humble Inquiry, The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling), I was initially dismissive: ‘These are old ideas rehashed’.

I was able to skim-read the book in less than 30 minutes and didn’t feel the need to deep-dive into any sections. This is usually a sign the material is something I’m already familiar with, or that the content simply doesn’t capture my imagination.

However, on reflection, I am now curious about how this dismissive first impression might be symptomatic of what Edgar is attempting to challenge in his writing: there is too much ‘telling’ and not enough ‘asking’ in relationships and in organisations.

My ‘relationship’ with Edgar, through his writing, was centered on questions, but these were not inquiring questions, born of humility: “This is basic stuff Edgar. Why are you rehashing old concepts? Where is the new, academically researched insight?”

I was ‘telling’ Edgar, through my questions, that I didn’t like what he had produced.

Challenging my first impressions and adopting a more ‘humble inquiry’ towards Edgar’s writing, my first impressions are now revised. I see a very powerful message, simply put, that is very much what we need in our relationships and from our leaders.

This book is very timely.

Scandals continue to flow from our banks, political parties, public services and other organisations. Humility and inquiring minds seem to be in very short supply. Given my initial reaction to this book, humble inquiry is also occasionally in short supply nearer to home.

I highly recommend this book. It won’t take long to read. You won’t find it difficult to grasp the concept of humble inquiry. However, be prepared for a lifelong journey of practice.

Old ideas rehashed? Yes, absolutely. Thank goodness.

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