Recently, I’ve spoken with several organizations that want to green their operations. There are many good reasons for pursuing this. Of course, efficiency in energy and material use is financially beneficial. A green perspective also unleashes hidden cultural potential. Shared meaning, care for the earth and future generations, and re-connecting with nature are just a few of the sometimes-overlooked benefits. Not to mention increased media exposure, since walking your talk gives you a standout position in your market.
While all this possibility swirls around, it can be a daunting to bring it to a landing and find what truly fits your organization and culture. I have helped several organizations make this transition from a wide, sometimes vague, field of possibility to a clear vision and specific plan of action. Along the way, we engaged interested parties, transforming them from onlookers – even naysayers – to active participants.
Powerful questions are an important tool in this work. There’s a wonderful story on the Towards2060 website that reveals this truth:
An answer is always the part of the road that is behind you. Only questions point to the future.
What do I mean by “powerful questions?” Consider three types of questions that correspond to three purposes of inquiry:
- To focus attention
- To connect ideas and find deeper insight
- To create forward movement
When the purpose is more accurately identified, the questions can be crafted intentionally. This is both more efficient and much more likely to engage people in a lively and productive conversation. Open questions and well-structured brainstorming allows the group to:
- Create a climate of discovery
- Suspend premature judgment and premature action
- Check underlying assumptions and explore beliefs
- Listen for connections between ideas
- Encourage diverse perspectives
Here are some examples of powerful questions, related to a project that involves not only extensive building renovations, but also a look at mission and operations.
• What’s important to us about green building; why do we care?
• What opportunities can we see in doing a green renovation?
• What do we know so far and what do we still need to learn about it?
• What assumptions do we need to test or challenge here in thinking about a green renovation?
• If success was completely guaranteed, what bold steps might we choose?
• What challenges might come our way and how might we meet them?
[Note: resource for powerful questions]
It gives us great joy to craft questions like this and to lead discussions that help organizations move forward powerfully on a green mission. Let us know how we can help you.