Sunday, 30 October 2016

THE SOCRATES CULTURE; The Secret To Making Good Decisions

How Great Leaders Make Great Decisions
Ishola Ayodele

A man once approached the great thinker of antiquity, Socrates and asked him a great question that has benefited so many people in the world today.

Man: Oh wise one what is the secret to making great decisions?

Socrates answered,  *"Ask great questions"*

In 1959 the Soviet Union (now Russia) beat the United States in the race to the moon when it landed the first man-made object on the moon.

The Then President of America Dwight Eisenhower asked a great question, "how can we be the first country to put a man on the moon?". He was told to put more funding into mathematics and Sciences which he did.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the moon and Neil Armstrong an American walked on the moon thereby making the United States of America the first ever nation to successfully landed a human being on the surface of the moon.

Peter Drucker, the great scholar on Management remarked,
*"My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions."*

Jim Collins, the business leadership guru, wrote extensive about leading with question especially in his book 'Good to Great' where he wrote about a mechanism for moving a company from good to great.

 This mechanism he called *the Council* which is a composition of the right set of people headed by the CEO. And how does the mechanism called council work? *By asking questions which are germane to the success of the company* and find finding answers through dialogue and debate.

How can we master the art of asking the right questions?

Michael Lindenmayer, elaborates on the
seven basic ingredients to nurture the Socratic culture of asking a great questions in his article published in the forbe magazine.

*Here are the seven ingredients*

1. *Quest for the best answers*
Ray Dalio said, “Remember that your goal is to find the best answer; not to give the best one you have,”.

Ray Dalio founded Bridgewater, one of the best performing hedge funds in the world. His firm is guided by a set of principles and at the core of those principles is an intense commitment to asking great questions. From how he recruits, to the day to day management, there is a 360 degree culture of asking thought provoking questions.

2. *Be humble; Admit you don’t know*.
You need to check your ego at the door when you go to work. It gets in the way of finding the best answers.
Once your ego is checked, you can be humble and admit when you do not know the answer. This returns us to the questing path.

3. *Build stamina; Get a brain work out*
Most people can handle a few questions before they experience cognitive overload. In other words, their brain freezes and they experience emotional fatigue.
Too many questions with too few answers kicks in the flight response. People can shut down. The good news is that people can build up their stamina so that they can handle more questions.

4. *Empower everyone*
Want to unleash the potential of your team? Yes? Then you will have to ask questions and be up for questing for the best answers.
I recently had lunch with Art Gensler, the founder of the largest design firm in the world. I asked him how he was able to control management at such a large scale. He said, “I don’t.” He applies the power of guiding principles. And he does this through a culture of questions.

5. *Concentrate*
If you want good answers, you need to concentrate on getting them. Our brains are splintered by multitasking.
Stanford Professor Clifford Nass’s research showcases how multitasking both reduces the speed of decision making as well as the quality of the decisions generated.

6. *Questions for the three P’s*
The three P’s are: possibilities,
and priorities.
These three are sequentially linked. Apply different questions to the different categories. Certain questions generate possibilities, a different set generate Probability.

7. *Know thyself*
Having a Socratic culture is great. It also means everyone should embrace the Socratic ideal to “Know Thyself.” First you need to understand yourself before you can understand others.

A Chinese proverb says "He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever."

The eternal truth of life is that every problem has a solution, all you need to do is to *ask the right questions* and be attentive enough to hear the right answer.

Little wonder Voltaire, French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit observed that we should *"Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers"*

Please share your thoughts with me by clicking on the post a comment box below.

Ishola Ayodele is a Public Relations practitioner and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.
He offers the following services to Large Corporations, SMEs and Individuals.

Result Oriented Communication,
Effective Crisis Communication,
Effectual Political Communication,
Reputation and Image management,
And Impactful Presentation Coaching.
He can be reached on
BBM 58ED6030,
twitter @ishopr and via

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