I've been writing and thinking over the past few days about using positive questions for professional development. First I looked at some questions for creating an internal and external learning environment and then I looked at questions to use in exploring what you want to learn.
Today I'm thinking more about different strategies you can use to explore these questions. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Frankly, I've found that at different times, different strategies may work better, depending on the person. I've also found that it can make sense to use multiple strategies to explore the same question. Sometimes I get more from that experience.
Reflective Journal Writing
Readers of my blog know I'm a big fan of reflection and of journal writing. For me, it can be really helpful to use old-fashioned pen and paper to write down my thoughts, but some people may prefer to open up a Google doc to reflect on these questions. Another thought is to use the Oh Life tool, especially if you're interested in exploring several of these questions over time. And, of course, a blog can be another way to do this.
Story-telling and Conversation
Another strategy I encourage is to find a trusted colleague or group of colleagues and to try responding to these questions out loud, by telling the story of your response to someone else. This can be incredibly powerful for a few reasons. First, many of us (especially the extroverts among us) do best if we process things by talking. Just the act of saying our stories out loud can get our thoughts flowing. But I think it's the act of telling the story to another person, who is paying focused attention to you, that can really get the thoughts flowing. They can also reflect back to you some of the themes and ideas they hear that maybe you miss as you're talking. If you can record this conversation as it's happening, even better. That way you can go back to it later on.
I've had great success using visual tools to explore positive questions. My favorite right now is the Exploring New Options Image Center. But you could also use a vision board technique, visual journaling, or even mindmapping. The idea is to free up your verbal left brain, which can take you down well-worn paths, into your right brain where more creative solutions may be available. If you're someone who usually writes, I actually encourage you to try a visual technique. It will open doors that you didn't realize were there.
It can also be helpful to combine several strategies. A process that has worked well for me is to first use a visual tool to explore the question(s) and then to talk about the story I've developed visually to another person. The process of me talking and the person reflecting back to me some of that they've heard and the themes that have emerged, gives me new ideas. I often take notes during this conversation so that I have a record of it and, if possible, will record the actual conversation to listen to later. I will then journal in a written journal about the image I've created, my conversation and any new insights I've found. Sometimes I'll listen to a recording of my conversation if I have the time and I think I will get more info from the experience.
I've worked with other people who may journal first, then talk about it and then return to their journals to record additional insigts.
The idea here is to tap into multiple strategies that may help you dig deeper into what you want to learn and how you want to learn it. While one strategy may be all you feel you need, using multiple strategies can definitely help you dig more deeply.
Thoughts? What other strategies could work? What works best for you?