The original philosopher in the history of Western philosophy is, of course, Socrates. Even almost 2500 years after he was born, his way of thinking is still very influential and particularly suited to the daily practice of your company/organization! Are you working on a new project, is there a pregnant problem, it might be worthwhile to ‘question’ the issue socratically. Follow the footsteps of Socrates in this Online Energizer, and come up with new ideas. Get inspired by the Ancient Greek(s)!
- A good question is half the battle. Socratic had a habit of walking through Athens and confronting people in the marketplace with the most obvious questions. Questions that they never thought of themselves. The old sage confused people on purpose, and then made them think about their prejudices. They expanded their mindset by keeping it simple.
- The mastery of Socrates lies in his ability to ask the right questions. But beware, as ‘simple souls’ we don’t need to be inferior to the famous philosopher. The simplest question often yields the most!
- To make it easier for us, we can work with a pre-agreed set of questions. More on that in a minute. This Online Energizer starts by dividing the participants of your (online) meeting into pairs. In each pair, participant A plays the role of the common Athenian, bringing a particular problem the table, something that is going on in the workplace at that moment, for example. Participant B acts as the Socrates. This participant now writes down as many questions as possible in five minutes, after the problem has been put forward. Remember: the simpler the question, the better.
- When the five minutes are up, Socrates asks the Athenian the questions. The ‘commoner’ may answer immediately – but does not have to. The main thing is to get thoughts flowing. (And hopefully in new directions.)
- When the ordinary Athenian is able and willing to answer (some of) the socratic questions, participant A again gets five minutes in turn. Socrates listens in, and may write down new questions as they arise.
- You can play as many rounds as ideas (and questions!) bubble up. After that roles switch and the common Athenian becomes Socrates (and vice versa).
- It’s worth repeating: the crux of the game is, of course, to ask the right questions. Therefore, here are some suggestions to help you get started.
- We’ll start easy. In five minutes, have Socrates think of at least 9 questions beginning with: What? Where? Which? Who? When? Why? Why not? How? What if? In each category there needs to be at least 1. As you can see, these are also the typical questions of a child towards a parent. A child also questions the simplest things. Every parent recognizes how the child can question value patterns in a mind-bogglingly philosophical way, simply by continuing to ask questions. This is exactly what Socratic did.
- If the above method is a little too rigid for your tastes, try this. Every problem has a core, and related core concepts. Typical Socrates is trying to have people (re)define the content of the concepts. While doing this you get back to the basics. What does the common Athenian mean when he speaks of ‘work-concept X’? What is the core of the problem actually about? What words does the Athenian use to describe this core value? Are these problems about people or things? If it is about people, do those people stand for themselves or is there a deeper understanding (value!) behind them? If it is about things, do the colleagues know exactly what is meant by these terms? Do they all mean the same thing when they talk about “case-Y”?
- As a matter if fact, Socrates asks again and again: what do you mean? Is it actually true what you say, and at the moment still take for granted without thinking? This is way Socrates can be quite a frustrating follow. But remember: no fire without rubbing.
- Bonus idea: when the ‘Scoratessen’ are writing down their questions, you can play the following philosophical songs! Who knows, those might raise questions again, too. Progress is an infinite process and the apple of wisdom never poisonous.