Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded

  • 2h 8m
  • Edgar H. Schein, Peter A. Schein
  • Berrett-Koehler Publishers
  • 2021

This worldwide bestseller offers simple guidance for building the kind of open and trusting relationships vital for tackling global systemic challenges and developing adaptive, innovative organizations—over 200,000 copies sold and translated into seventeen languages!

We live, say Edgar and Peter Schein, in a culture of “tell.” All too often we tell others what we think they need to know or should do. But whether we are leading or following, what matters most is we get to the truth. We have to develop a commitment to sharing vital facts and identifying faulty assumptions—it can mean the difference between success and failure. This is why we need Humble Inquiry more than ever.

The Scheins define Humble Inquiry as “the gentle art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building relationships based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” It was inspired by Edgar's twenty years of work in high-hazard industries and the health-care system, where honest communication can literally mean the difference between life and death.

In this new edition the authors look at how Humble Inquiry differs from other kinds of inquiry, offer examples of it in action, and show how to overcome the barriers that keep us telling when we should be asking. This edition offers a deepening and broadening of this concept, seeing it as not just a way of posing questions but an entire attitude that includes better listening, better responding to what others are trying to tell us, and better revealing of ourselves. Packed with case examples and a full chapter of exercises and simulations, this is a major contribution to how we see human conversational dynamics and relationships, presented in a compact, personal, and eminently practical way.

About the Authors

Ed Schein is a former Professor Emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management. In 2009 he published Helping, a book on the general theory and practice of giving and receiving help followed in 2013 by Humble Inquiry which explores why helping is so difficult in western culture. It won the 2013 business book of the year award from the Dept. of Leadership of the University of San Diego. He continues to consult with various local and international organizations on a variety of organizational culture and career development issues, with special emphasis on safety and quality in health care, the nuclear energy industry, and the US Forest Service. An important focus of this new consulting is to focus on the interaction of occupational/organizational subcultures and how they interact with career anchors to determine the effectiveness and safety of organizations.

Peter Schein is a strategy consultant in Silicon Valley. He provides help to start-ups and expansion-phase technology companies. His expertise draws on over twenty years of industry experience in marketing and corporate development at technology pioneers. Peter spent eleven years in corporate development and product strategy at Sun Microsystems. At Sun, Peter led numerous minority equity investments in mission-critical technology ecosystems. He drove acquisitions of technology innovators that developed into multi-million dollar product lines at Sun. Through these experiences developing new strategies organically and merging smaller entities into a large company, Peter developed a keen focus on the underlying organizational culture challenges that growth engenders in innovation-driven enterprises.

In this Book

  • Introduction—What is Humble Inquiry?
  • To Boldly Tell or Humbly Inquire
  • The Humble Inquiry Attitude
  • How is Humble Inquiry Different?
  • The Culture of Do and Tell
  • Cultural Do's and Don'ts of Conversation
  • What Really Goes on in a Conversation
  • What Goes on inside Your Head?
  • Developing the Attitude of Humble Inquiry
  • Notes
  • Discussion Guide and Exercises
  • Twelve Mini Case Studies to Illustrate Humble Inquiry