To power inclusion, ask the right questions

Person working on a Microsoft laptop


As organizations continue to operate in an increasingly complex global marketplace, we are challenged to think differently, to gather new perspectives, and to be curious.

Innovation thrives in diverse environments, and to invite diversity into your culture, you should start with inclusion as a cultural behavior.

Why is inclusion the first step? Each of our perspectives are unique. We form them through our individual life experiences, coupled with our own values that help us represent our personal views. A culture of inclusion seeks out these unique perspectives. It helps us demonstrate curiosity of the differences and can create belonging.

A culture of questioning creates safety for people to be curious of each other and the work we’re involved in. Questions show interest in new ideas and invite deeper exploration for understanding. Best of all, it encourages others to do the same. And the more we practice curiosity, the better we get at it.

A Harvard Business Review article, Relearning the Art of Asking Questions, shares four types of questions that could be helpful as we seek to cultivate cultural curiosity for inclusion.

  • Clarifying questions help us better understand what has been said and avoid false assumptions. These include questions like, “can you tell me more?” or “what makes you say that?”
  • Adjoining questions help us explore related aspects of the issue that haven’t been brought up and helps broaden the conversation. Examples are. “how does this apply in a different context?” or “how else can this technology be used?”
  • Funneling questions are used to dive deeper into the subject, discover how a decision was made, and understand the root causes of problems. Ask: “how was the analysis done?”  or “why did we skip this step?”
  • Elevating questions help us zoom out, raise broader issues, and highlight the bigger picture. These include: “what are the larger issues?” or “are we asking the right question?”

Genuine curiosity coupled with the right questions helps us innovate faster and more successfully. It helps us create inclusive environments where everyone thrives. And that inclusion attracts diversity, which propels innovation.

What questions have you asked that helped lead to breakthroughs, innovations and deeper understanding?