We live, says Ed Schein, in a culture of Tell. Rather than trying to genuinely relate to other people we tell them what we think they need to know or should do based on assumptions we've made about them. But telling makes people feel inferior--it shuts them down. This is particularly true of interactions between superiors and subordinates, and that's where it's particularly problematic. In today's complex, interconnected, rapidly changing world hierarchy means nothing--anybody anywhere could have that vital fact or insight that could mean the difference between success or disaster. A free flow of information is crucial.
Humble Inquiry builds the kinds of positive, trusting, balanced relationships that encourage honest and open interactions in both our professional and personal lives. Schein defines Humble Inquiry as "the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person." In this seminal work he explores the concept of humility, looks at how Humble Inquiry differs from other kinds of inquiry, offers examples of Humble Inquiry in action in many different settings, and shows how to overcome the cultural, organizational and psychological barriers that keep us from practicing it. This is a major new contribution to how we see human dynamics and relationships, presented in a compact, personal, eminently practical way.
Edgar Schein is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and a Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author of many articles and books, including Helping, Process Consultation Revisited, The Corporate Culture Survival Guide, DEC Is Dead Long Live DEC Organizational Culture and Leadership, and Career Anchors. He has defined the field of organizational culture and has consulted with many organizations in the United States and overseas on organizational culture, organization development, process consultation, and career dynamics. What has distinguished Schein's work is his combination of sociology, anthropology, and social psychology.