Qual Street

Dedication to the answer


Humble Inquiry


I’ve been reading Edgar H. Schein’s quick read called Humble Inquiry.

The book’s focus is on the benefits of asking questions in place of telling.

Schein explains that ‘telling’ puts people in their place, whereas asking helps us understand more about the circumstances surrounding decisions and behaviour. Schein wants us to ask ‘humbly’ because regardless of how important we are, we need to recognise that we are dependent on many people in order to achieve successful outcomes, and we need to recognise this inter-dependence.

I think it’s so interesting that researchers spend a lot of their time locked into humble inquiry at the interview phase, but when we get to ‘outputs’ – the debrief, we detach ourselves from this key skill and start ‘telling’ rather than asking.

So how we can achieve humble inquiry at the endpoint of the study when we are sharing insights? One way, perhaps is to ask questions throughout a debrief: what do you make of this? What are your reactions? What are your builds? We are often frightened that we’re going to be challenged, or we relish the challenge and dive in with an argument. A better way to insight might be through Schein’s humble inquiry.


Kath Rhodes, Qual Street Owner

I love love learning and so I invest time and resources with Ambreen and Claire into exploring social psychology, neuro science, creativity and new techniques in research. Read all about it and help yourself to the ideas that will deliver your business the insight it needs

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@Qualstreet on 17 March 2023