It was Thomas Samuel Kuhn (1922-1996), one of the most influential philosophers of science of the twentieth century, who revolutionized our picture of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in claiming that, according to the Paradigm Concept, a mature science experiences alternating phases of normal science and revolutions: “In normal science the key theories, instruments, values and metaphysical assumptions that comprise the disciplinary matrix are kept fixed, permitting the cumulative generation of puzzle-solutions, whereas in a scientific revolution the disciplinary matrix undergoes revision, in order to permit the solution of the more serious anomalous puzzles that disturbed the preceding period of normal science.”
What this quotation from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy conceals is that in normal science the questions are also kind of fixed and prefabricated and that during these periods scientists normally just raise questions about which they already know the answers.
Our situation is not normal at all. It is a situation of fundamental change – and this not just because of the crisis. Mark McDonald from Gartner knows this. And he knows about the importance of raising the right questions. Questions which can move us forward: “Great CIOs ask good questions pretty much all the time. A good question is one that creates knowledge and shares understanding. A good question makes both parties smarter. Most questions are not great questions. Helpful yes, but they simply exchange information from one side to the other.”
I don’t want to withhold from you the following rough typology of great questions that Mark McDonald gives …
• Logic checking questions – If that is true, then these other things must be false?
• Implications based questions – So given this issue we are also seeing these other things happening?
• Proof of fact questions – so how do you know the issue is happening and what are the consequences?
• Forward looking questions – so given all of that, what are the next steps or how do you suggest we take?
… also because most process optimization efforts follow the same steps.
By the way, Mark McDonald recently did a whole series of posts about what makes a great CIO.