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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Flexibility (February 2017)

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


February 06, 2017

The 2013 Sustaining the Journey was about Cognitive Shift and the States of Mind/Energy Sources. We have revisited it here, but with some additional thoughts and ideas. This week in Denver at the 5th Annual Thinking Collaborative Symposium, Dr. Marilee Adams delivered a keynote entitled “With Our Questions We Make The World,” based upon her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. Questions that have positive presuppositions in them are framed as Learner Questions while those that are negatively skewed are called Judger Questions. For example, a Judger Question might be, “Why am I such a failure?” A Learner Question would be “What can I learn?” Participants experimented with asking and responding to each type of question. A common theme was how the judger questions shut down thinking and caused other strong physiological responses.

Questions that are asked in Thinking Collaborative work have elements of invitation. They have positive presuppositions, tentative language, and plural forms. They are asked with approachability and they are non dichotomous or open ended to spur thinking.

The Five States of Mind (Cognitive Coachingsm) or Energy Sources (Adaptive Schools) are: Flexibility, Consciousness, Interdependence, Craftsmanship, and Efficacy.

Cognitive shift occurs when a person has a breakthrough in his/her thinking; it is a moment of incredible insight. It is the goal of the coach to invite cognitive shift. Artfully asked questions around the Energy Sources can also cause a group to shift in thinking and can be used to intervene when conflict occurs.

During the keynote participants engaged in an activity known as Q Storming, or a brainstorming of questions. Dr. Adams defined Q Storming this way: “Q-Storming is a collaborative, creative thinking, and problem-solving method/process that catalyzes the discovery of new questions, directions, and possibilities. It can be the difference that makes the difference, often creating breakthroughs in areas such as strategic planning, problem-solving, and innovation.”

Some of those questions have been added to each week’s conversation around questions. Powerful questions were constructed around values, beliefs, identity, and mental models that people hold. They reinforce the States Of Mind and the Energy Sources.


This week we consider the State of Mind or Energy Source of flexibility. One critical strategy is inviting a shift in perceptual position. This is a powerful strategy because it causes a person to move from his/her natural egocentricity to a new view of allocentricity (other centered). It is a powerful invitation to view the world differently. Some examples of how this strategy might sound are:

• What might be some other viewpoints on this issue?

• What were some of your perspectives on this when you were a classroom teacher?

• As you consider those you work with, what needs might be most prevalent for them?

Questions from the Q Storming

 What systems thinking might support our influence?

 What perspectives have I not considered yet?

 What people/resources might open my eyes to new perspectives?

This week, look for opportunities to use this strategy to invite flexibility in others. Also consider how it might serve you to ask these questions of yourself.

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