Focused conversation pushes people to be creative, not critical, says Brian Stanfield, author of The Art of Focused Conversation.
For example, if you want to evaluate a new marketing plan, gather a few people and hold a conversation that goes like this:
1. Open the conversation. “I’ve heard some strong reactions, pro and con, to this plan. I thought it might be useful to share our opinions about the advantages or disadvantages of it.”
2. Ask objective questions to establish the facts. “What is the first thing you noticed on the plan?
3. Ask reflective questions to uncover personal reactions. “What do you like or dislike about it?”
4. Ask interpretive questions to dig deeper for insights. “How does it compare to the previous marketing plan? 5. Ask decisional questions to figure out the next steps. “What can we do to measure its effectiveness?”
6. End the conversation. “Thanks for your thoughts. I’d be interested to hear any additional reflections you have.” Or, if the conversation reveals that the plan needs major improvements, say, “I can see we have some serious reservations. I will take your input, revise the plan and get back with you all.”
You’ll notice this conversation isn’t about one-word answers. “Questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, or a single right answer do not make for lively conversation,” says Stanfield.
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