The story of the Answer and the Question

Last week I had a mail exchange with Miriam – founder of IDEIA – when she was traveling to Greece. In one of her mails she informed me that she was going to visit the Oracle of Delphi. Based on my recollection of the stories around the oracle I replied that I hoped that she would find the answers she was looking for. She replied “I am looking for questions not answers!”

And for a week now her reply has kept me busy. Isn’t what happened between us typical for what is happening in our relations, in our businesses, in our society. We think we are searching for the answers to the problems we are facing, for solutions. It looks like we have become ‘searchers-for-solutions’, often finding that these answers are not really addressing our needs. And is this aspect of looking for answers not also typical of our still very patriarchal society, the father – the leader – who has all the answers to everything and will take care of us. In these days where we become more and more aware of the fact that we can’t known everything and will have to rely more and more on others being prepared to share their knowledge with us. In other words we are facing the end of the era of the answer. There are no answers anymore that will serve as a solution to all the challenges we face. We are moving into a timeframe where the balance between the feminine strengths and masculine strengths will be restored.

And that is why Miriam’s reply is such a beautiful reply. It signals with unbelievable precision that we are shifting into the era where it will be the right question that will eventually – through conversation and dialogue – lead to a better understanding of ourselves, our organisations and our society. This shift will for some be painful as it may come with a loss of power, but in general we will experience this shift as a blessing. The right questions will invite each of us to participate in the dialogue that will make us engage in meaningful conversations. Let me finish by sharing another story that happened to me in 1997. I was attending a class and one of my colleagues was late. Suddenly he stormed into the classroom exclaiming “I lost all of my questions and all of my answers!” at which one of the other students replied: “But I hope you hold on to your dreams”. In other words there may be more to this story of the Answer and the Question, but for the time being I’ll continue my search for the right questions as Miriam suggested. I invite you to join me in that search and let us share our findings.

This blog was written by Joep C. de Jong, IDEIA council member, associate of the TAOS Institute and Managing Director of JLS International BV. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Practioner since 1995 and author of several books and articles on AI.