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Humble Inquiry by Edgar H. Schein: A Closer Look

The book Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling by Edgar Schein describes the mindset that best suits today’s leaders who are facing the increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) business environment. Schein speaks about the need to move away from an expert mindset (telling) and move towards a humble mindset (inquiring). Because leaders are faced with an overwhelming volume of information today they must consider that it is not possible to know everything that is happening. This thinking requires a level of humility—accepting that being a Subject Matter Expert (SME) is not possible all the time. Leaders will come face-to-face with complex situations where the number of variables and factors reduce the likelihood that answers will be readily apparent.

Today’s leaders need to accept that knowing is not always possible. In order to be more effective, leaders can create environments that are adaptive and invite collaboration. The skills required to do this are deep listening—exploring possibilities through inquiry.

Learn more about Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling here. 


This post was written by Alex Grimshaw, co-founder of PPS International Limited. He is a specialist in leadership and executive development and a consultant in performance improvement. He develops and facilitates more than 100 programs a year that consistently exceed client objectives. Alex has also helped individuals assess and develop their organizational effectiveness through executive coaching and development.

Want to know more about working in a VUCA environment? Contact us!

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