Ebooks   ➡  Nonfiction  ➡  Career Guides  ➡  Education

Conversations of Inquiry












































Scott Downs and Jerry Doyle, with Annie Littrell Senior and Tracy Skala

… and an emerging community of others



© Copyright 2016
















05 Is there a subject about which you simply feel you need to widen your horizons or take a new, wider or different view?









If your answer to any one of these questions is yes, we invite you to become a master of Conversations of Inquiry.






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When we speak of Conversations of Inquiry, we’re thinking of conversations we initiate as a way of learning something, making a new connection or expanding our horizons.


We’ve become curious about these kinds of conversations because of their importance in journeys like job searches, career development and decisions and next steps in education.


As we reflected on our career-oriented work with students and recent alumni, we realised that Conversations of Inquiry can be remarkably useful in many, many contexts: wherever our intent is to learn something new or to widen our perspective in any way.








We’ve learned from a number of expert sources* and from our own experi- ence that Conversations of Inquiry can be a crucial part of an effective search for satisfying and productive work. These conversations can be a

form of “prototyping” – helping us try out new ideas and explore new avenues in many aspects of work-life. So Conversations of Inquiry can help us define what we want to do in work, and how to get the opportunity to do it.


Some of us are educators, working with students who are considering their educational options, particularly decisions about what kind of educational program to pursue or where to apply. Conversations of Inquiry can help people decide what they need to learn and how to learn it.


We also work to help people discover their inspiration or sense of purpose and to develop visions of the future based on those inspirations. Within that work, we have discovered that focused Conversations of Inquiry can help unlock the exploration and manifestation of a sense of personal or collective purpose and inspiration. So Conversa- tions of Inquiry can help us discover what’s most important to us, who we are, and why we’re here – and then how to bring those insights to life every day.


Taking all these learnings together, we’re coming to see that Conversations of Inquiry can be a huge resource for people across many fields of interest. We generalise to say that anyone who is interested in learning, making new connections or widening their personal horizons will be well served by becoming skilled and self-aware in the art of Conversations of Inquiry.


*(for example Steve Dalton, Bill Burnett, Dave Evans)





p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. To understand needs – in the marketplace and the wider world (potential employers, customers, suppliers, collaborators)

p<>{color:#000;}. To get ideas and input needed to make a crucial decision

p<>{color:#000;}. To learn from the experience of others

p<>{color:#000;}. To dig deep(er) into important questions

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. To meet and get to know interesting and insightful people – people who may be valuable connections – e.g. for learning, mentorship, referral, hiring, buying, selling, support – now or in the future

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. To get clues on mentorship or sponsorship - these could come from or through the person we are talking to -- or from someone they know or suggest

p))))))<>{color:#000;}. To develop and test our own offerings - personal, professional or corporate -- testing existing ideas and getting new ideas about how offers might change, grow or develop

p<>{color:#000;}. To get referrals to the next stage of an inquiry

p<>{color:#000;}. To ask for help and support

p<>{color:#000;}. To make an offer of help and support

p<>{color:#000;}. To make a human connection

p<>{color:#000;}. To learn across generations, cultures, backgrounds, perspectives, orientations -- to

create more diversity of experience or insight

p<>{color:#000;}. To develop a respect and knowledge of history and context

p)))))))))<>{color:#000;}. To be awakened to ideas that we might never gain insights to within our current comfort zone

p<>{color:#434647;}. Simply to stretch and expand one’s perspective beyond its current limits

p<>{color:#000;}. To gain stimulus for creativity and innovation





For the moment, we are focusing here on one-to-one conversations where we reach out to someone for purposes of learning or exploration – for inquiry. These reflections do touch on general principles of dialogue, but it is not our specific purpose to explore dialogue in general in this particular ebook. We are not concerned at this moment with conversations intended particularly to reach decisions, conclude agreements or make sales, for example. We do expect to go broader in considering the potential and value of dialogue in subsequent publications. Please stay tuned!




Now, let’s jump in together: let’s create some Conversations of Inquiry and explore some of the related themes of inquiry, dialogue and self-reflection that illuminate and are illuminated by such a journey.








What do you want to know? Who do you want to connect to? What do you want to learn? How do you want to grow? How can you most effectively move an important project forward?


Any of these questions can be great foundations for a Conversation of Inquiry. Indeed, if you find yourself holding a question like one of these, you might find that a Conversation of Inquiry (COI for short), or a sequence or series of them, will be a great help in clarifying your insights and/or achieving your goals.


If you do have such a question in mind, it may be useful to sit with the question for a while, and let it deepen or develop. It can be useful to ask yourself – probably more than once – why do I want what I think I want? What would it give me if I had it? Why do I want that? And so on.


As an example, you might want to get a good job. What do you mean by a good job? What do you know about what good means for you? It’s worth clarifying your real desires in some depth. Some thinkers suggest asking yourself “Why?” up to five times to get to the bottom of your most important motivations.


Curiously, you might want to consider having a Conversation of Inquiry with someone, just to clarify your own questions for later investigations. Or you might find that you want to spend some time in internal reflection, “having a conversation with yourself” about what is truly important to you in this situation, what you want to learn, what you want to achieve, what you want to create, design or “make”, how you want to serve others.





In our work with young people to help them discover and create their sense of inspira- tion, we invite our participants to keep a journal where they can record and mature observations on their journeys of inquiry. In fact, journaling is now a widely practiced discipline in many forms of personal, organizational and leadership growth and develop- ment. We invite you to use your journal, if you already have one, to capture, learn from and develop your Conversations of Inquiry. If journaling is new to you, this could be a great opportunity to begin. In particular, as you frame, develop and mature questions for inquiry, please be invited to record the questions and their growth in your journal.







Find an attractive and dedicated notebook for recording your observations about your Conversations of Inquiry. If you already have a journal for broader reflection, you can use that, or create a special journal for this work. Make notes on your insights in the journal regularly as you navigate your COI’s.





Frame for yourself a question you want to explore through conversations with others. Write down your first thoughts. Then give yourself some quiet, reflective time to deepen your understanding. Ask yourself up to five times, “Why do I want to explore this ques- tion?” Perhaps a deeper or underlying question will occur to you. Keep a written record of the process in your journal. What is the question of inquiry as you understand it now?






















If you have a question of inquiry, who would be a good person to explore this with? In the context of job searches, your intended contact could be someone who

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. Works in an organization you want to know more about, connect to, get interviewed by, or work for

p<>{color:#000;}. Is someone who has experience in an industry you are interested in

p))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Is someone who has travelled a path you would like to travel, e.g., gotten a job like the one you want, earned a qualification you want, started a company like the one you want to start

p<>{color:#000;}. Is someone who has important influence or insight in the organizations or industry

of interest

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. Is someone in your network who has insight or experience in the field of inquiry – a mentor, coach, present or former colleague or fellow student, alumnus/alumna of your alma mater, fellow member of a professional, educational or online network

p<>{color:#000;}. Is a trusted mentor, adviser, or friend

p<>{color:#000;}. Has a different, unique or divergent perspective on the question of inquiry




In the context of deciding next educational steps, your intended contact could be someone who


p<>{color:#000;}. Has attended or now attends the institution you have in mind

p<>{color:#000;}. Is a current or former faculty or staff member in the institution

p))))))))<>{color:#000;}. Advises or supports people in making educational choices and applications, like a guidance counsellor, educational adviser or consultant

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. Is someone who has important influence or insight in the institution or educational field of your interest

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. As above, is someone in your network who has insight or experience in the field of inquiry – a mentor, coach, present or former colleague or fellow student, alumnus/alumna of your alma mater, fellow member of a professional, educational or online network

p<>{color:#000;}. Is a trusted mentor, adviser, or friend

p<>{color:#000;}. Has a different, unique or divergent perspective on the question of inquiry


If you are seeking simply to learn or explore, your intended contact could be someone who


p))))))<>{color:#000;}. Has done, achieved or attempted something related to your field of inquiry: they work in a related field, have started or run a relevant company or organization, done or published research, studied the area academically, regulated or overseen the field from government, etc.

p<>{color:#000;}. Thinks and communicates broadly about questions related – directly or indirectly – to

your question of inquiry

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. As above, is someone in your network who has insight or experience in the field of inquiry – a mentor, coach, present or former colleague or fellow student, alumnus/alumna of your alma mater, fellow member of a professional, educational or online network

p<>{color:#000;}. Is a trusted mentor, adviser, or friend for a range of questions or issues

p<>{color:#000;}. Has a different, unique or divergent perspective on the question of inquiry




We suggest making a creative list of potential connections for COI’s. Let your list be creative and expansive. Think big, be ambitious. In terms of particular decisions, and in managing your own energy, insight and confidence, you may want to “start small” and work up to the “bigger fish”, but you will be well served to be creative, open-minded and ambitious in your list-making. Feel free to conceive in general terms of the kind of person you want to speak to, and/or the roles they may occupy, and then to ask your coaches and mentors for help if you need it in identifying specific individuals. Keep your list in or connected to your journal. You may want to use electronic tools like a spreadsheet for dynamic updating, but the journal is a good place to record flash inspirations and reflections on the list itself.




Make and keep a list of the people you might like to have a Conversation of Inquiry with about your question(s) of inquiry. Decide what is the best format in which to maintain this list. Add contacts to it regularly as they occur to you and update it to reflect the results of the COI’s you hold.



Now, let’s create and follow the flow of a COI conversation itself, from clarifying the purpose, into the dialogue itself, through follow-up and reflection











In this context, we are focusing on conversations that are focused on learn- ing and making connections. Some of our teachers and mentors, especially a consulting organization called nowhere (www.now-here.com) have taught us to think about the intent of an interaction at four levels. nowhere calls

this a PO3 exercise. As you approach your conversation you may want to record notes about these four perspectives in your journal, and/or in your personal record of COI’s:

p<>{color:#434647;}. Purpose

p<>{color:#434647;}. Objectives

p<>{color:#434647;}. Outputs

p<>{color:#434647;}. Outcomes



Purpose: What is the higher purpose behind your intended conversation? If you already have a sense of your higher purpose or the threads of your personal inspiration, you might record relevant points here. For example, what kind of a career are you seek- ing to build? What service do you want to offer the world? What do you think you might want to create? What things that you love do you want to know more about or get more deeply involved with? What causes are you passionate about that this conversation will inform?


We should stress that these ideas about purpose or inspiration need not be fully formed, indeed they may only be in the form of questions: for example, I am curious about the kind of career I want…… I have this glimpse of insight and I want to know more about ….. I have a clue that this person might be able to help me unlock a key question or remove a key obstacle.


Objectives: Are there some specific things you want to know about, or a specific connec- tion you want to make as a result of a specific conversation? Whereas Purpose touches the elements of your highest intent that operate in the background of the intended conversa- tion, objectives are more particular to the individual encounter: what do you want to achieve in this conversation? For example:

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. To learn more about the state of a particular company, industry, institution, or community today

p<>{color:#000;}. To get advice about how to win a particular role at a particular organization

p<>{color:#000;}. To learn how to prepare for an interview or an application

p<>{color:#000;}. To meet someone inside an organization

p<>{color:#000;}. To create a network contact in a particular context

p<>{color:#000;}. To get referrals to others who may be useful in a particular context

p<>{color:#000;}. To find a coach or mentor

p<>{color:#000;}. To find a sounding board for ideas

p<>{color:#000;}. To connect with a different perspective



It can also be very important to think about the objectives that the other person may have in mind, including as possible examples

p<>{color:#000;}. To give back in return for how others have served them in the past

p<>{color:#000;}. To contribute to the strength of a community, for example an alumni network

p))))))<>{color:#000;}. To learn from a person of your background, which may be quite different from theirs. For example senior, older people may want to know what younger people and students think about their organization or community or a particular topic

p)))))<>{color:#000;}. To find a sounding board for an idea or insight - the other person may be reluctant to admit to their own curiosity or to have confidence in it, but with a little encour- agement, they may find this aspect of a conversation very useful. Because you may be outside their normal network, it may be “safe” for them to try out on you unusual, different, opposing or contested perspectives or outside-the-box ideas that they would not - or could not find space to - share with colleagues in the normal course of business

p<>{color:#000;}. Simply to have a creative conversation, without the pressures of day-to-day demands

p<>{color:#000;}. Simply to be kind, and to have the feeling of having helped someone else



Outputs: What specific results will come from this meeting? You may not want to define these too tightly, in order to leave room for creative conversations to develop, but it may be worth holding these as possibilities and focus for your intention. Note the distinction between outputs, which are highly concrete specific results, and outcomes, which are more about states of being or qualities of relationship, as described below. For example, outputs could include:


p))))))))))<>{color:#000;}. The meeting itself may be enough to create a newly established network connection

p<>{color:#000;}. Specific ideas or actions on further research or learning – usually for you, but

possibly for the other person, too

p<>{color:#000;}. A new co-creative insight that you can use or act on – one or both of you

p<>{color:#000;}. Referrals to identified others or identified resources

p<>{color:#000;}. A next meeting

p))))))<>{color:#000;}. A commitment to follow up again or reconnect after a specified time period, including your own commitment to follow up with acknowledgement and thanks, to be tailored based on the results of the conversation


Outcomes: How might you be changed as a result of the conversation? How might the other person change? What sort of relationship might be created? Outcomes are “soft” results, that have more to do with how we are as people and in relationship than with specific actions or work products – those are the outputs. Examples of outcomes could include:


p<>{color:#000;}. You are more knowledgeable about a particular topic

p<>{color:#000;}. You feel more confident about a particular area of inquiry

p<>{color:#000;}. You have built your skills and confidence in conducting COI’s

p<>{color:#000;}. You have created a new relationship

p<>{color:#000;}. What kind of relationship is it?

p<>{color:#000;}. What sort of container have you created for and with the other person?

p<>{color:#000;}. How did you serve each other? How might you do so in the future?





p<>{color:#000;}. How does each of you help the other’s creative process?

p<>{color:#000;}. What have you created together?

p<>{color:#000;}. You have been kind and appreciative to each other

p<>{color:#000;}. You may have gently (or not so gently) been challenged, one or both of you

p<>{color:#000;}. You may have had the experience of a connected conversation

p<>{color:#000;}. You may have had the experience of co-creating together




Create a documented list for yourself of the

p<>{color:#000;}. Purpose

p<>{color:#000;}. Objectives

p<>{color:#000;}. Outputs

p<>{color:#000;}. Outcomes

for an intended Conversation of Inquiry. Create a first draft quickly, then give yourself time to reflect on the interrelationship of the four elements.

What do you notice as you look over the results?

You may want to save your PO3 in your journal or keep it in a paper or electronic medium as preparation for your COI.





You might see the potential value of the learning or the connection you might gain from a particular conversa- tion, but if you are like some of us (Scott!), and many others we know, you might resist contacting a stranger to, in effect, ask for the favor of a conversation. It could

seem you are asking someone out of the blue to give you some of their time and insight. This fear or resistance is natural and very common.


There are a couple of responses or approaches to this fear.



First, it’s worth tapping into what has been called the Ben Franklin effect. Steve Dalton, in his book The 2-Hour Job Search, shares this principle: people actually like to be asked for help! The effect is named after a story Benjamin Franklin relates in his autobiography, about how he developed a particular relationship



“My first promotion was my being chosen, in 1736, clerk of the General Assembly. The choice was made that year without opposition; but the year following, when I was again proposed …, a new member made a long speech against me, in order to favor some other candidate. I was, however, chosen…. I .. did not like the opposition of this new member, who was a gentleman of fortune and education, with talents that were likely to give him, in time, great influence in the House, which, indeed, afterwards happened. I did not, however, aim at gaining his favor by paying any servile respect to him, but, after some time, took this other method. Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favor of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I returned it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favor. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we become great friends, and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”



The moral of the story is that people are normally much happier to do favors for others, if asked politely, than we may expect. Doing small favors for others actually gives most of us a lift, and a sense of being slightly better citizens of the world.


In addition to building their sense of doing good, you may, in unexpected ways, serve the person you are contacting, perhaps by providing a sounding board for their views, or allowing them to benefit themselves by recommending you as a desirable hire or con- tact.


Finally, as there will be clear benefit to your learning and/or your network, it is worth pushing yourself a little to the edge of your comfort zone to make these connections. Steve Dalton has commented that job searches become sustainable, that is, they start to have momentum, when job seekers have managed to complete three Conversations of Inquiry (“informational interviews” in his terminology). By pushing through your resis- tance, you will become stronger and more able to tackle challenges of this kind in the future. And, as Dalton’s comment suggests, once you get over the hurdle of engaging in these conversations a few times, your confidence is likely to grow and you will have added a powerful tool to your repertoire for learning, creativity and service.


Dalton offers a strategy for focusing on the most promising and welcoming connections. He encourages job seekers to divide their contacts, based on their responses, into three categories: Curmudgeons, Obligates, and Boosters. Curmudgeons won’t usually respond to your overtures at all. After a couple of disciplined approaches, if no response comes back, they can be neglected. Obligates will respond grudgingly out of a sense of obligation, and are unlikely to be energetic advocates. The key, he says is to find people who genuinely want to be helpful, the Boosters. They tend to respond quickly and gen- erously, energised by the Ben Frankiin effect. By expecting some cold and tepid responses and dealing with them appropriately, you can focus your energy on the Booster connections where the real value will be created, and where your own energy will be met and reinforced.



All of that said, you may find that fear is still a strong embodied experience. If you find it hard to push through it, seek out the help of a mentor or coach, especially one who has experience with embodied resistance, to help you move past the hurdle. Our experience suggests that your life as a learner, creative, and servant of the greater whole will be richer and deeper if you do.




Notice what fear or resistance you feel about reaching out to others to initiate COI’s,

either specific ones or in general. Write your observations in your journal.

Consider your fear and resistance as an objective observer, without judgement or

pressure to change anything. Does this perspective soften your resistance?

Does considering the Ben Franklin effect help you to be more ready to contact others? Does noticing that you need only focus on Boosters and can ignore (most) Obligates and

all Curmudgeons help?

Does it help to be consciously willing to push your boundaries a little, for purposes of

growth or to achieve your goals?

Do you want to seek some support from trusted and experienced others?





It is worth doing a bit of preparation for your conversa- tion, so that you have a reasonable knowledge of the background and context of your inquiry from the point of view of your contact. You want to convey the quality and sincerity of your interest, by having a reasonable

knowledge of your topic beforehand.



On the other hand, as Dalton suggests, one can do too much research. The purpose of the conversation is to ask questions and learn, not to impress your contact with your own comprehensive, existing knowledge. In this connection, too much research can have the insidious effect of encouraging you to take up too much airtime in the conver- sation with your own insights, and may focus you too much on what you already know, rather than what you might want to learn.


A better approach might be to steep yourself in your question for a little while. What do you really want to learn? What kind of connection do you really want to make? What would be the ideal outcomes and outputs of the conversation? What would “good” look like for this conversation?


Make some brief notes in preparation for your COI.

What is your question of inquiry as you understand it now?

What (briefly) do you know about the organisation or context in which you are

approaching people?

Remind yourself of your PO3. Has it changed or evolved?

Write your reflections in your journal, or in a place and medium where you can use them

in the upcoming meeting.








Dalton recommends requesting an “informational inter- view” (our COI) using what he calls a “four-point email”.


Dalton’s four points are as follows:



p<>{color:#000;}. Fewer than 100 words – keep your request short and to the point; get to the point

quickly but respectfully

p))))))))<>{color:#000;}. No mention of jobs anywhere – if you have a longer-term goal of employment, acceptance at an institution, or other practical object, keep your initial contact focused on learning

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. Connection goes first – let the person know quickly how you are connected to them – how you found them and any relationship you have to them. This maximises the chance that they will feel a sense of connection with you and want to help you on the basis of that connection

p))))))<>{color:#000;}. Generalize your interest – open a broad enough category so that the conversation can take the form it wants to take, and so that your contact can help you in unexpected ways even if they can’t provide “hard” benefits – like directly hiring you or approving or recommending your application.


Whether you use email or another channel, or whether Dalton’s points seem appropri- ate to your inquiry or not (we have found them to be highly effective for job seekers look- ing for informational interviews), we believe the ideas of being brief, direct, respectful and sincere in your approaches have universal value. Not limiting your inquiry too nar- rowly allows creativity and serendipity to take wing in your conversation.



For those running extensive campaigns of COI’s, Dalton has a range of valuable and focused suggestions for managing the process described in his book, The 2-Hour Job Search (see References at the end of this book).




Write your own template for a four-point email. Review it for personal and effective

energy, brevity, and respectful directness.

If you prefer telephone or personal contacts, prepare a light guidance script for yourself

(not a rigid formula).

Choose a contact, customise your email and send! Or make the phone call or the personal approach.

Record what happens in your journal: the objective outcome, and what was going on for you mentally, emotionally, intuitively and in embodied sensation.

What did you learn?





If you succeed in getting agreement to a COI, here are a few thoughts on how to handle your arrival and opening of the conversation.


Be punctual. If there is an agreed time, place or channel for the conversation, be on time and present yourself consciously. For physical meetings it is worth arriving a few minutes early to make sure there is time to sign in at building reception and/or navigate the phys- ical requirements of reaching the space where the meeting will take place and to com- pose yourself. Being a few minutes early (5-10) allows for these things to take place naturally and allows you to start your meeting on time and get full value from the time your contact is able to devote. On the other hand, being more than, say, ten minutes early may be annoying as your contact or his colleagues may feel they need to accom- modate you, while other meetings may not have finished.


If you are connecting by phone or digitally, make sure the technology is working – phone charged, internet working, and any necessary software, e.g. Skype or Zoom, is loaded and running. You may want to enter any electronic meeting rooms a bit early and mes- sage your contact a few minutes before the scheduled start to let them know you are ready. If you are participating in a video conference, set up and test out the camera image you will be conveying. Check and observe the lighting in the room behind you and the background such that it is professional and/or represents the impression you wish to give.


Prepare any materials you may need, including your own preparatory material and note-taking resources, ahead of time and give yourself time to put these at your disposal before the meeting actually starts.


Arriving a few minutes early also allows you to settle yourself and focus, take a few deep breaths, and become present.





A Conversation of Inquiry is a form of dialogue. You are going to make a human connec- tion with another person. It may be someone you do not yet know. Even if it is only for a few minutes, and it turns out to be a very businesslike conversation, you are creating a “container” with them.


By that we mean that, if only for a short time, you are holding an energetic space togeth- er. You are both in that space, you both belong in the conversation space you have joint- ly created, and you each bring unique and special experiences to that container. There has never been another human being exactly like you, or exactly like your contact. There has never been someone with exactly your experiences or exactly your opportunities to serve or create – or those of your contact. Nor will either of you ever be duplicated. Nor will the specific conversation you are about to have. Ever. In the whole history or future of humanity.


So this is a unique opportunity for connection, and for dialogue.



With this in mind, it is useful to take those deep breaths, still yourself if you have a prac- tice for that, and bring your attention to your own state of being. How are you? Are you nervous? Happy? Expectant? Pre-occupied? Just giving some focused attention, without judgement – being a “neutral” observer of your own state – is likely to make you more present, more connected.


It is worth also reflecting on the relationship you will have with the other person, prepar- ing yourself and reminding yourself to notice them, how they are, and to notice how the two of you interrelate.


You may also want to consider the physical space, particularly if you have responsibility for arranging it. Is it sufficiently private? Quiet enough to permit thoughtful and focused conversation? Free from interruptions? Physically comfortable and attractive? Some access to natural light and a bit of connection to the natural world? Some element of elegance, beauty or design? If you are not making the choices about these things, still notice them and seek to maximize and leverage the attractive qualities of the situation where you find yourself.


On a practical level, we suggest opening by introducing yourself if necessary and thank- ing your contact - sincerely and personally - for their investment of time and energy in the meeting.


It is also usually helpful to inquire politely how things are for them and make a connec- tion in an appreciative, but not lengthy, way to their day, the surroundings, the context, something you have in common.


In many forms of dialogue, participants do something called a “check-in”. Depending on the context, doing this formally in your meeting may or may not seem appropriate. But as a context it is worth remembering and you may be able to use the structure informal- ly.


In a check-in each person in a meeting is in turn invited to say how they are in them- selves and to say what they are looking for or anticipating in the meeting. Sometimes there is a specific check-in question. Each person speaks in turn, and everyone has an equal chance to speak. As noted, doing this formally may not be possible or desirable. When it is possible, we find it is almost always a healthy and constructive practice, so give it a thought and perhaps push your boundaries a bit to suggest it.


Share with your contact how you are, how you are feeling about the meeting – be sincere but positive – and what you hope to achieve. Be brief and leave room for creative exchange, but share your expectations.


Similarly, inquire about how your contact is and check if their expectations are the same, different or related. If you have asked for or suggested the meeting, it is fine and appro- priate for you to be responsible for holding the agenda, but it is also always helpful to allow space for any intentions your contact may have. Check that you have a common understanding about the time contract. Don't push for more time than the contact wants to offer, but be clear on any constraints from the start.


With the opening and the overt or subtle check-in completed, open the conversation

with a thoughtful, open question to your contact, and prepare to listen and learn.





After your COI is over and you have had time to breathe and settle, reflect on how your

opening went. Make notes in your journal.

Did you arrive for the meeting in a collected way, with all your own resources in place? Did you make an energising connection with your contact?

Did you both offer your own truth and listen for theirs?

Did you put forward helpful and generative questions for the conversation?

What do you notice? What did you learn?








On a very practical level, Steve Dalton offers the follow- ing outline as a backbone for questioning during “infor- mational interviews,” his special case of COI's. He calls the framework TIARA. He offers it as a reliable resource for job-seekers conducting many informational inter-

views. This framework can be adapted for other related purposes.



p<>{color:#000;}. Trends – you might begin by asking the contact about trends in their industry,

their business, or the relevant context

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. Insights – what insights do they personally have that would be valuable for an outsider: what things have they learned that someone outside the context might not know?

p<>{color:#000;}. Advice – what advice would they have for someone interested in getting involved

with the industry, organization, venture or topic?

p<>{color:#000;}. Resources – where or to whom should you go for more information?

p<>{color:#000;}. Assignments – what kinds of work or projects do people often do in the relevant

parts of this context? What is a typical day like?



These questions create a robust, and dependable, backbone for very practical COI’s. They are worth having as part of your toolkit, especially if you are actually job-hunting; as you can probably see, they can be adapted to many other practical contexts.


Although the principal reason for the conversation, and the vast bulk of the time involved, should be devoted to questioning your contact and listening carefully to their answers, Dalton does recommend that the initiator prepare good answers, in case asked, to such common questions from the counterpart as


p<>{color:#000;}. Tell me about yourself (or walk me through your CV or your resume)

p<>{color:#000;}. Why do you want to work in this industry – why are you interested in this context?

p<>{color:#000;}. Why do you want to work for our company – why are you interested in this

particular part of the context?



Preparing answers to these questions is important (Dalton gives detailed advice), but the answers should be structured to be responsive … and … to turn the conversation back as quickly as possible to questions for your contact – to maximise learning and insight.


Your COI may be intensely practical … or … it may be that your COI has a deeper, more personal meaning. It may also happen that a conversation initiated on practical grounds creates an important personal connection.


In that case, it will be helpful to hone your skills of dialogue in order to get the most out of your conversation.







3. 4.






In the first instance, your purpose in connecting is to learn from your contact, so the con- versation starts as a listening exercise for you. This invites you to learn to listen on at least four levels, as defined by Otto Scharmer in his book Theory U.


Level 1: Downloading. At this level, you are simply receiving – and people are sharing

p)))))))<>{color:#000;}. facts and opinions. This may be very useful for purely practical purposes, but is a super- ficial level from an interpersonal point of view


Level 2: Factual listening. Here you are listening for facts and observations, but focus- ing on things that are surprising or divergent from expectations. It reflects a focused presence in the circumstances. It can be said to be listening with an open mind.


Level 3: Empathic listening. Here you are seeking to listen from the perspective of the other person. To begin to sense into what the subject of the conversation really means for them. This includes not just cognitive but emotional and intuitive meanings, and a sense of what is going on in an embodied way for the other person. Indeed, we can use “ourselves as instruments” to sense what is going on in the conversation based on what our own bodies are telling us, not only about our own experience, but that of the other person. This kind of listening puts us as much as possible into the other per- son’s shoes, allowing us to see through their eyes. This kind of listening is a much deeper




and more complex skill than the other forms mentioned earlier, and takes much prac- tice. It’s worth the effort to learn and practice, in our experience. This kind of listening can be said to be listening with an open heart.


Level 4: Generative Listening. This is the rarest and most powerful form of listening of all, according to Scharmer, and our experience. It implies that the participants are truly connecting with each other, and are genuinely creating a new, co-creative experi- ence from their dialogue - they are creating something that has never been there before. In this sense, they are creating the future together. Scharmer says that they are in effect “listening together to the future” - creating something new and emergent. In listening to each other, and attentive to the creative possibilities of what they can tap into together. This form of listening can be said to be listening with an open will.


You can learn more about these forms of listening in Otto Scharmer’s book Theory U or by hearing him speak about the levels in the video linked here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLfXpRkVZaI







Foundationally, Conversations of Inquiry are about asking questions; as the initiator, your intent is to listen and learn from your counterpart. A significant risk is to move to try to impress or immediately to convince your counterpart of something; this risk needs to be avoided.


At some point, however, if the conversation deepens and you have heard the counterparty’s insights, you may find yourself invited to join in a two-way conversation. If you are sure that your role as questioner and inquirer has been well and patiently filled and that the invitation from the other side is genuine, then of course enter the conversa- tion on a dialogic basis.


If you have prepared the ground well, framed a powerful question, formed and held a beautiful container, you may find that the two of you can enter a remarkable dialogue, working together at the deeper levels of Scharmer’s patterns of listening, co-creating something beautiful and unique. As Scharmer would say, you are together helping something to arise from the emerging future – something that didn’t exist before, and something neither of you could have brought forward on your own. Work to build on each other’s insights and dance together in creating the new. See what serendipity brings you.





After your COI is over, and you have had a chance to settle, reflect on your level of listening. Make notes in your journal. Which of Scharmer’s four levels were present in the conversation?

Did the conversation become a genuine dialogue? If so, how did this happen?

Describe the level of connection you and your contact achieved. What do you notice?

What did you learn?

What if any new choices would you make in future COI’s, with this contact and with others?








Nick Udall, CEO of the nowhere creative consultancy, in his book, Riding the Creative Rollercoaster, has described a process for a journey of inquiry that we can use in Conver- sations of Inquiry. Described in more detail in the book, the journey has several stages:


p<>{color:#434647;}. Onboarding

p<>{color:#434647;}. Questing

p<>{color:#434647;}. Illumination



In the onboarding phase, we create the container for inquiry. We briefly described con- tainer-building earlier. It means we create a space where all the participants are explicitly included and have a sense of belonging. They all sign on for the journey of inquiry, and implicitly or explicitly commit to each other for the journey. They heighten their level of self-awareness, becoming present and attending to what they are experiencing and learning, cognitively and intellectually, but also, very importantly, emotionally, intuitively and through bodily sensation, including an internal felt sense. They also increase their level of systemic awareness – understanding and appreciating their participation in the container as a human system, and paying attention to their interactions and interrelation- ships, as well as to the larger systems of which they and the inquiry are a part.




A very important part of onboarding is the framing of what Nick Udall calls a Breakthrough Question. This is a question of deep importance to the participants – one to which they do not know the answer, one that takes them into the unknown, one whose answer is of real meaning, that would “change everything” if it were known, one that feels at least slightly “daunting.” We alluded to the importance of key questions for COI’s earlier – NIck’s frame- work makes the framing of such questions central to journeys of inquiry, and he invites us to attend to this element as a precursor to the journey.


With a container built, awareness raised and a Breakthrough Question in hand, partici- pants in a Creative Rollercoaster ride are ready to pitch into the unknown together. This is the sense in which the rollercoaster metaphor is most powerful: we join together for a deep and often frightening dive into the unknown.


The bottom of the rollercoaster ride is the key to transformational insight but it is also the most demanding part or the ride, sometimes the most frightening and often the most conflicted. On this part of the ride, Nick invites us to have the courage and the tenacity to hold the tensions of the inquiry – the discomfort, the uncertainty, the conflict – in the promise that if we do so the rollercoaster emerges again at the top of its track, in a moment of breakthrough insight. Over more than 20 years of academic research and working with senior teams in industry, Nick and his colleagues have seen this pattern pay off with breakthrough insights again and again, as have all the people we have known who have taken this journey process to heart (Otto Scharmer’s Theory U journey and the Hero’s Journey charted by Joseph Campbell follow very similar and resonant patterns).


Our Conversations of Inquiry can often follow this pattern if we are willing and coura- geous enough. Our contacts in some cases may be willing to join us on these journeys explicitly - or we may hold the pattern silently in our minds and hearts. Using this frame- work is likely to deepen the insights of the conversations, and lead to more breakthrough




results. At the same time, not every COI reaches this level of depth. We invite you to explore and practice this approach with patience, seeing what you learn and what you notice from the experiience.


To learn more, watch the Riding the Creative Rollercoaster video at




or read Nick Udall’s book, Riding the Creative Rollercoaster: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d- p/B00I3LG35E/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1





Consider one or more of your COI’s as rides on Nick Udall’s Creative Rollercoaster.

What was your Breakthrough Question?

With your contact, did you create a container for the journey?

Did your conversation feel like a rollercoaster ride? Did you go together into an unknown

place? Was it challenging to hold the tensions of the ride?

If you did hold those tensions, was there a breakthrough result?

Make notes in your journal. What do you notice? What have you learned? What ideas do you have for future COI’s?





An unusual and sophisticated but powerful practice in Conversations of Inquiry is to make, and possibly share between the participants, maps about the inquiry. This may be a step too far if your conversation is with a stranger in a professional setting, but if you are having a COI with an open and creative person with a mutual interest in your subject of inquiry, mutual map-making can be a very powerful and exciting tool.


To make a map, consider the topic you are inquiring about and create a visual image of the situation on a large piece of paper, like an A1 sheet or a piece of flipchart paper (small- er paper sizes work as well, but large sheets give scope for maximum expression). Give yourself time, but perhaps not too much time, say 20-40 minutes, to create the map. You might want to reflect or journal for a while before you begin drawing. Definitely be encouraged to use shapes and colors to convey what you know, and what you are curious about. Both you and your partner in conversation can prepare maps. Then you can pres- ent them to each other, working in turn. Listen carefully to each other (reflect on the discussion of levels of listening presented earlier) and inquire of each other to deepen your understanding. Don’t criticise or give advice - make the exercise one of mutual understanding, appreciation and co-creation. After you have both finished presenting, you may want to create a space for dialogue, seeking to allow for qualities of open mind, open heart and open will. Using visual imagery and mutual presentation has a remarkable way of engaging right-brain thinking and deepening trust and communication between the parties.




Even if it does not seem appropriate or possible to share maps between two participants, you may wish to prepare a map for your own reflection before or after engaging in a COI with another person. Creating a map before the COI may very well deepen your own per- ception of the nature of your questions, what is known and unknown about those ques- tions, and your ability to inspire your counterpart with evocative questions about the inquiry. Creating a map after the conversation may be a remarkable way to crystallise your learnings and stimulate further creative exploration.


If you do make maps, please be encouraged to keep them for later reflection, in a form or

a place, physical or electronic, included in or linked to your journal.



This concept of map-making is inspired by the Temenos journey, as created by international consultant Siraj Sirajuddin, and described in the book Showing Up, by Olaf Lewitz and Christine Neidhardt.




Make a visual, evocative map for yourself before a COI. How would you represent your question visually? How would you represent where you have come from in preparing and the background to the inquiry? How would you represent your aspirations for the meeting?

After the COI, reflect on your map. Would you like to develop it? How would it change?

Would you like to make a new one?

Keep your map for future reflection (perhaps electronically).

Make notes in your journal. What do you notice? What have you learned? What ideas do you have for future COI’s?








As you near the end of your COI, be sure to honor the time contract you have made with your counterpart. As the time window nears its end, make sure you have time to briefly but accurately note, record and share any key insights. Particularly if it seems to you that there have

been some breakthrough insights, make sure you have time to share them thoughtfully with your counterpart, and to shape or reshape them so they can be saved.


If there are specific actions or next steps, be sure to record them and confirm them with your counterpart. If you are committing to any of those actions yourself, make sure your commitment is clear and direct – who will do what by when? If your counterpart has offered to take action, make sure you confirm those actions and relevant details (who, what, when) in a clear but respectful way. It is usually best to maintain control of the follow up by volunteering to check back or reconnect at a mutually convenient, but clear- ly specified time.


As the meeting nears its end, be sure to thank your counterpart for their time, attention and energy. Appreciate them for their achievements, commitment and insights so that they know they have been heard and valued in the process.


Depending on the nature of the relationship and the interaction, you may wish to con- sider an explicit or implicit check-out. A check-out, a relative of the check-in we described earlier, allows each person in the conversation to express their feelings on completion and to say what they have gained from the meeting and what they intend to do next. Like a check-in, it leads to a sense of universal inclusion, an equality of voices, and trust, as everyone is heard, given equal time, and invited to speak authentically. Everyone is equally valued, seen and heard.








As a general rule, always write to thank your counter- part, perhaps on the same day or at latest the next day. In your thanks, briefly capture important observations about the learnings and value of the conversation to you, so your counterpart knows he or she has been

heard and their investment was valuable and has been appreciated. You may also want

to note any key follow-up points that have been agreed.



If you can think of a way you can add value to your contact based on what you learned, include it as a “gift” in your follow-up. Your appreciation may be enough – remember the Ben Franklin effect – but you may also be able to send along a piece of information, an introducton, or an idea that will add value to your contact. Be humble and respectful – this is about gift-giving, not about showing off. But also open yourself to the idea that your perspective and experience adds value for your contacts.


Follow up assiduously on any commitments that have been made, including reconnect- ing on the timescale committed if you need to check with your counterpart about things they have agreed to do.






These quotations, from alumni of the Illinois Institute of Technology, spanning a wide range of ages and experience, illustrate some of the learnings and insights that Conver- sations of Inquiry can elicit. Names of respondents have been withheld to protect confi- dentiality, but quotations are attributed to degree program and year of graduation.


Don’t take anything for granted. Become as well rounded as possible studying widely, [_ continu- ally ] _learning, adapting constantly to the changing economic landscape. Work and learn [_ inde- pendently with as many sources of income as possible maintaining financial freedom and flexibility. Often work will be completely different than education, training and experience which requires adaptability. Communication requires listening in silence to comprehend the complex ] _needs of the challenge and issue at hand. Stay loyal to family, friends and local [_ com- munity ] _because a strong support system is the best ally. Never put work before happiness and health. Meditation, prayer, yoga and other forms of mental discipline increase concentration, focusing and productivity. Multitasking does not work. Don’t become a tool of your tool including all the technology. The most important thing is to enjoy what you do and have fun at it. If you can’t figure out what you want to do there are some empirical tools to help you discover your hidden potential. They’ve worked for nearly a century, so they can help you.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Research design and statistics, 1975



Create a personal mission statement (brand) and live it. Be careful when creating a career plan; the plan needs to be flexible or you will only set yourself up for disappointment. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself, several times over the course of your work life. It is only by [_ broaden- ing ] _experiences that we can bring broadened thinking into a role.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Computer Science, 1980



Regardless of career path, a successful person will need to nurture relationships with people. Leaders especially need to lead by nurturing relationships rather than processes. The ability [_ to nurture relationships is critical -- you’re a consensus builder. If you can navigate your way using ] _those soft skills along with your technical skills you can accelerate your success.

- MCOM, 2002



[_ Starting from your first year, be sure to network and apply for internships or volunteer work in your desired field. It is extremely risky to wait until your senior year to start looking for employment -- start right now _]


Also, do some research to figure out what career you would like to pursue as early as you can. Always follow up with a phone call after submitting an application. Lastly, I highly suggest that all of you read the “The 2-Hour Job Search

- Engineering Management, 2015


If you’re pursuing your passion, then you have already won half the battle. Be aware that working towards attaining your dream job, starts the day you set foot at your university. If you’re unsure about which path to take, seek as much career advice as you can. Ask, network, discuss: we can learn plenty from others’ experiences. You can always delete any negative or obsolete advice. However, gain much and learn from the positive ones.


Choose your courses with precision, they should blend with your career goal. Prepare yourself for THE interview. Chase every opportunity you can. Learn from every mistake and letdown. You can only get better until you land on the planet of success.


[_ I landed my first job here in the US, at the IIT Career Fair Fall 2013. The offer was for a Sum- mer-Internship ] _at Sears Holdings. My past work experience, fall courses (ITMD515 especially) and self-preparation helped me perform at the interview. During the Summer Internship, I tried my best to grasp the technologies being practiced at the firm and develop a deep understanding of the domain. As my graduation approached, Sears offered me a full time employment.”

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Software Engineer, 2015



A huge part of my career success is the result of having incredible bosses. Good bosses help you navigate the work environment, develop your skills, understand and unleash your [_ poten- tial, and push you to move farther in your career. Seek out good bosses in your interview ] _process, maintain strong relationships with them, and consider seeking other employment if your boss is a “bad boss” bad bosses can do more harm than good, even if you have a good job.”

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Personnel and Human Resources Development, 2014



[_ Begin searching way in advance. Talk to the people you know before the December/January holidays, make connections, go to networking events, etc. Most of the times you will get noth- ing from those but even if only one works it will be worth it. After the break, the real search begins. You need to apply online to some positions but what has been proved to be the most effective is IIT Careers Fairs and LinkedIn. _]


For the Fairs go with everything prepared (printed resumes and a 20 seconds presentation about yourself, a list of companies you want to reach out to) and be on time so you have time to talk to everybody. For LinkedIn just send requests to connect to people who work as what you want to do in the future.


Don’t ask them for jobs, ask them for information, questions about their jobs, how to get into the industry, visas if they are international too, etc. If you share a couple messages and they like you they will tell you to apply, if not, you can always ask if there are any open positions within their company. An alternative could also be to meet in person and invite a coffee, although that is harder to get than a quick response on LinkedIn.”

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Engineering Construction and Management, 2014



Opportunities will present to you that may seem outside your ‘comfort zone’ or a bit of a stretch for your skill set but take a chance! Sometimes it takes challenging ourselves to see an area for growth which may even change our path. You’ll realize later these were once in a lifetime opportunities that you might not get once you’re established in a career.”

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Psychology PhD, 2013





Depending on the dynamic of the conversation, it may or may not seem appropriate to take notes during your COI’s. In any case, pay close attention to your counterpart, taking notes light- ly if appropriate so you won’t forget key points, but keeping your

attention on the other person.



After the conversation concludes, you will want to spend some time capturing your reflections. You can use your notes and your maps – indeed you may want to make a map as a way of capturing your insights immediately after the session. Record any reflec- tions in your journal. You may want to sleep on the impact of the meeting and make focused entries in your journal for a day or two after the meeting.


You may want to create your own template or checklist for recording what you learn from your conversations, and where they steer you for further inquiry. In the appendix is one form we have to offer as an invitation. Please use it if it serves you, and take anoth- er direction if that serves you better.


Allow the meeting to shape your thinking and your decisions about further research. Make a point each day to reflect back on the conversations just concluded, to capture any learnings and new directions for the future.


You may want to take some specific time each week or each month to reflect back on your Conversations of Inquiry, particularly if you have a discipline of weekly or monthly personal reviews. You can then think back on your learnings from COI’s and how they have shaped your thinking, your understanding, your sense of personal purpose and inspiration, your network of contacts and connections and your plans and direction for the future.






Shortly after one of your COI’s, reflect on what you learned and how it went.

What did you learn about your question of inquiry?

Did the question itself mature and change? What did you learn about the other person? About yourself?

Did you create a relationship? What did you learn from and about that relationship?

About relationships in general?

Make notes in your journal. What have you learned about COI’s in general? What ideas do you have for future COI’s?







As we become more mature and self-reflective - at any stage of life - we can move into what thinkers on human development have called “self-authorship”: a stage where we take responsibil- ity for noticing, evaluating, choosing and indeed pro-actively

shaping and forming our ways of seeing the world. We can become the authors of our own worldviews, fundamental beliefs, patterns of behaviour, and pathways to creativity and self-expression.


COI’s can be a wonderful platform to develop this kind of self-authorship. We can actively observe and consider the foundational perspectives that belong to both our counter- parts and ourselves. Really listening and reflecting on another person’s perspective can suggest to us ways of seeing the world very different from our own. These may have foundations in gender, in nationality, in culture, in economic, social and cultural back- ground, in generational position.


We can compare these perspectives to our own as a stimulus to creative reflection and to suggest new outlooks and patterns of understanding we might wish to consider — “try on” for ourselves. In contrast, to the extent we are mature and objective enough to do so, we can notice and observe our own patterns as they are at work in the conversation, and consider how effectively they are serving us. Would we want to take a broader or a wider or a more creative – or just a different – view?


All of these insights can be captured in our journals and in our logs or records of our COI’s, a practice that opens up continuing opportunities to shape new COIs and our ongoing process of learning and growth.





We invite you to use Conversations of Inquiry as a means of widening your horizons, and those of others.


We invite ourselves, all of us, to challenge ourselves to connect with people with very different backgrounds: expressed in economic, political, philosophical, social, gender, generational, religious, geographic, racial, or sexual-orientation terms. What can we learn by seeing the world through the lens of someone with a completely different story and set of experiences than ourselves?


We encourage ourselves, all of us, also to see our partners in conversation as individuals, as individuals who are members of small groups and communities, as individuals who are members of connected and networked communities, as individuals who are mem- bers of networks of networks and systems of systems. This multi-tiered view is important because it speaks to respect -- to see again and again, and always in new ways -- the people to whom we are listening, and to whom we are speaking, and learning "along- side" rather than seeing them simply as a source of information or advantage.


We encourage you to notice what you see, hear, sense and feel when your horizons are

widened – to share your learning with your partners and your network – and with us.







We are all learning to become better – more committed, more energetic, more present, and more proactive – in creating

opportunities for Conversations of Inquiry, and learning more and more how to widen our horizons through this very fruitful

practice and channel. Our experience is that the more we hold these conversations, the easier they become, but also the deeper and more insightful they become – the more we become skillful at holding them and learning from them and offering the benefits to our counterparts and to others.


This book is part of a journey of inquiry for us. We are all engaged in different ways with helping young people – and those young at heart, including ourselves! – to emerge as inspired authors of their own lives, abundant and successful makers of beautiful objects, products, services, experiences and organizations.


To these ends, we are developing and prototyping a set of curated resources for young people, which we have called a Career Creative Curriculum. The next installment to become public, an ebook devoted to Discovering Inspiration and Bringing it to Life, will be launched in early 2017. We look forward to sharing these ideas and co-creating around them with you.


We invite you to make Conversations of Inquiry a habit, to learn more and more from these connections, and to make the learning and the reflection they inspire part of your personal daily practice. You may find that your “portfolio” of conversations is a rich resource for your personal growth. We have found it so for us. If you find this practice,



enriches you and others, please share your experience with us and share your best

ideas and practices with others. We wish you a rich and profitable journey.



Scott: [email protected] Jerry: [email protected]

Annie: [email protected] Tracy: [email protected]









Many years ago, when I started my career, I worked in a commercial bank. It was perhaps one of the most prestigious and successful corporate and institutional commercial banks in the world, but it was not an investment bank.


In business school, I had wanted to join an investment bank. I tried, had a number of interviews, but got no offers. So I went to the commercial bank, where it seemed I was wanted.


The itch to join a “real” investment bank continued, though, and I kept thinking about how I could realise that dream. I shared my ambition with a colleague; as it happened, she had a good friend who worked in an investment bank – one of the world leaders – just down the street from our office on Wall Street in New York.


My friend kindly made the introduction, and Jim and I had lunch together. It took a few tries to arrange, because of his busy schedule, but when we did meet we had a great conversation over lunch. We went to Fraunces Tavern, a historical landmark in the Wall Street area, one of the few colonial-period buildings left in lower New York. It’s the site where George Washington said goodbye to his officers at the end of the Revolutionary War in December 1783.


I put my interest to Jim in a very open way, sharing my desires for the future. As I remem- ber it, I was very honest with him about my successes and failures and just laid out my hopes for him, asking his advice and guidance. I wanted to hear about his own journey and experiences.



He spent a long time telling me about his own journey at the firm he worked for, what it had been like to join, what the strengths and weaknesses of the firm were, the human side of working there. I wasn’t pressing him to get me a job, I was just trying to learn and understand and to connect to him as a human being. By the end of lunch, it felt like we had become friends through the conversation.


Unexpectedly, he invited me to come back to the office with him after lunch. He showed me around the firm, including its then-famous and pathbreaking fixed income trading floor. He introduced me to several colleagues, including the head of investment banking. It was a wonderful and inspiring day, for which I thanked him warmly. We wrote thank you letters on paper in those days…..


Jim did some sniffing around for me at this firm for concrete opportunities over the coming weeks and months. Nothing firm came of it.


Some months later, I got a call from a headhunter for a job at that same firm, focused on my particular skills. I was never able to establish if that call had anything to do with the earlier meetings. Jim couldn’t confirm that it had. I still don’t know. But I interviewed, got the job, and joined the firm. It’s hard to say for sure whether and how my earlier intro- ductions and learning affected my success in the process, but I feel sure it made me more confident and more insightful in my interview conversations, and it seems clear to me that it made a difference, if only by strengthening my own manner, behaviour and confidence.


Jim left the firm shortly after I joined to work elsewhere, and we have not stayed in touch over the years (my failing). But before he did leave we stayed in touch within the compa- ny, and enjoyed periodic laughs together, with a sense of warmth that arose out of his helping me find my way into his firm and the investment banking industry.





One of my favorite Conversations of Inquiry with an IIT alumnus was with a consultant in a firm in San Francisco. I reached out to him by email, and he agreed to have a 20 minute chat with me over the phone. At the start of our conversation, I asked about his experi- ence and the type of work he does. He came from an engineering background and went into consulting later.


My interest in conducting Conversations of Inquiry is to discover the world beyond my academics and be curious about the endless possibilities after graduation from Illinois Tech. I told him I am generally interested to learn more about consulting, but he asked me what am I am really interested in working on the most, and my response was: electric cars and autonomous driving. He then told me that this is the perfect time to jump on it. It’s like the internet bubble in the 90’s, and it would have been crazy if you were a CS student back then and didn’t join one of the tech companies.


I was really happy to hear him encouraging me to pursue what I really want to do, and after that conversation, I started to fully invest myself in learning about self-driving tech- nology and electric cars by taking machine learning classes and spending more time with my IIT Motorsports electric powertrain team.





As I started my last semester at Illinois Tech I became more determined to pursue a career in consulting. Therefore, I decided to start building my network and meeting people from the industry to learn more about consulting and to get my foot in the door.


I believe that the key to a successful Conversation of Inquiry is having a genuine interest in the other person’s career path, and more importantly being able to express that inter- est in an effective way.


I found it extremely helpful to have a general idea about the company and the types of questions I wanted to ask. Generally, keeping it focused around the person being inter- viewed and their experience is a key to make that happen. I asked questions on previous projects, what made them successful in their role, what did they learn from their experi- ences, what do they look for in a candidate, etc, to both show my interest and gather information.


I tried not to focus on getting a job, even though my ultimate goal was to get an interview or a job offer through my networking effort. It was important to me to try getting the best out of my conversations beyond just finding a job or getting referred.


From my experience, the quality of information that I got from someone that works in the industry and the relationship that I established with professionals inside the compa- ny were extremely beneficial, and increased the success of my following conversations. I was able to land my dream job in consulting, after networking with people from the industry. I was referred to a consulting analyst position and received an offer from my dream company.





When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

- Maya Angelou



The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes from within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this.


The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations.


But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until

there is first known that true peace which is within the souls of men.



h3(((((((())))))))<>{color:#000;}. Black Elk in The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux


Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Dr. Joyce Brothers



When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Paolo Coelho






Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first [_ they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same prob- lems, ] _the same questions.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Paulo Coelho



No one can lie, no one can hide anything, when he looks directly into someone’s eyes.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Paulo Coelho



The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Peter Drucker



Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Jimi Hendrix



[_ The reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist on this small planet. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of inter- ests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue. _]

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. The Dalai Lama



[_ There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and communica- tion.... ] _Try the experiment of communicating, with fullness and accuracy, some experience to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated, and you will find your own attitude toward your experience changing.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. John Dewey



Without mutual knowledge there can be no mutual understanding; without understanding, there can be no trust and respect; without trust, there can be no peace, only the danger of conflict. This means we have to be willing and able to familiarize ourselves with the way people of other cultures think and perceive the world around them, but without losing our own standpoint in the process.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Roman Herzog, President of Germany



Dialogue, one can argue, is the central activity of any university community. We can disagree passionately, but we should not demean our opponents. We should state our convictions, but we should listen to all, and most attentively to those who do not share our views. It is the responsibility of each of us to foster a conversation that engages and [_ enlight- ens, ] _rather than descends to mutual recrimination.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. John I. Jenkins, CSC, President, University of Notre Dame



If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Nelson Mandela



Everything has a role to play.

– Menominee hunters and fishers



Dialogue is the only way to end war and terror. We need practical solidarity with those who are weaker and diplomacy from below.

- Luisa Morgantini, Italian politician and peace movement leader



Only curiosity about the fate of others, the ability to put ourselves in their shoes, and the will

to enter their world through the magic of imagination, creates this shock of recognition. Without this empathy there can be no genuine dialogue, and we as individuals and nations will remain isolated and alien, segregated and fragmented.

– Azar Nafisi, Ph.D, Iranian-born writer, teacher and scholar of

English literature



You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. M. Scott Peck



The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Rachel Naomi Remen



Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Rainer Maria Rilke



Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Rainer Maria Rilke



I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Rainer Maria Rilke



A person isn’t who they are during the last conversation you had with them they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Rainer Maria Rilke



I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Rainer Maria Rilke



We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together and if we are to live together we have to talk.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Eleanor Roosevelt



Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the

soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Jalaluddin Rumi



To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way

we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

– Tony Robbins



If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Desmond Tutu



My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Desmond Tutu



Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Rollo May



Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person. That is natural.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Zora Neale Hurston




A “few words” makes it almost impossible to provide guidance after 50+ years of following my passion for the continual challenges of creating, innovating, maturing technology and managing talented people in the aerospace industry.


[_ If you do it right, you must prepare yourself for a "wild ride" with results ranging from abject failure to resounding success when your job assignment is to constantly expand the perfor- mance envelope of technology in this dynamic industry. Competence in your field of endeav- or (or major) is only a starting point. Communication skills (oral and written), desire for continual learning, ability to relate to co-workers/customers/peers/bosses, risk taking, accountability, and consummate technical honesty are a few of the required attributes for success. _]

- MetE, 1950



As an engineering student I found that the Electrical Engineering professors who gave our class the “real world” type problems to solve were the most valuable when I entered the work force.


The “real world” problems many times lacked the detailed info needed to solve the problem, so we needed to make reasonable assumptions to get the approximate answers. Also, if your field of study is technical, I recommend that on your first one or two jobs, try to gain as many real world technical technical skills as possible before you transition to a management position. Also, stay current technically by taking courses on the newest technology in your field.


When seeking a job position, remember the three most important methods for landing that job are, Networking, Networking, and Networking.


Keep in touch with your professors and fellow classmates and network for the job you seek through them. Also, network through your family and friends. You never know who might provide you that valuable lead to your first or next job position.

- Graduate, 1962



Be entrepreneurial. Seek opportunities to make things happen. Be proactive.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Architecture, 1963



Have fun & be curious. Some of the best opportunities arrive by accident. I never planned on being a teacher but took the education courses at IIT because they had a better reputation than the other ‘liberal arts’ courses. During my senior year at IIT my high school Physics teacher left Morgan Park and I was invited to return and teach there with many of the [_ teach- ers I had. Because of the attitude instilled in me by Prof. George Ross at IIT, I started having fun with all of the 'toys' physics teachers play with. As a result I won many local, state and national teaching awards and taught Mae Jemison who became the first African American female astronaut (STS-47). All the time I was teaching, I was having fun. I retired when the 'fun' ] _stopped.

h3((((((((<>{color:#000;}. Physics, 1964



Do something you like doing.

- Law, 1967



The Alumni Voices Project is a joint-initiative of the Office of Student Access, Success and Diversity Initiatives and Alumni Affairs. To learn more about this project and to contribute your voice to this “Conversation of Inquiry,” please contact Lisa Montgomery, Director of Inclusion, Diversity & Employer Engagement.

Office: 312.567.3777 | Email: [email protected]





You may want to create your own format for recording the learnings of each particular COI, including


p<>{color:#000;}. Your contact’s name

p<>{color:#000;}. Contact details

p<>{color:#000;}. The locations and time of the meeting

p<>{color:#000;}. Key learnings

p<>{color:#000;}. Key actions you each agreed to

p<>{color:#000;}. Subsequent events or subsequent learnings



Some people will like to keep these records electronically, others in paper form. Some may prefer to capture COI learnings and actions in their journal. Some people find a paper record to be more human and more embodied, some people like the portability, flexibility and shareability of digital forms. Some people may want a physical space to store images, objects and artefacts collected around COI’s


Another way of working is to keep all your COI learnings in one electronic space, as a sort of structured COI diary. We’re experimenting with doing this electronically via a spread- sheet or table where each line has four columns


p<>{color:#434647;}. Name

p<>{color:#434647;}. Date

p<>{color:#000;}. Learning point (a sentence or two or a few key words; you can also include links to

images, maps, videos, music, etc)

p<>{color:#434647;}. Tags



In this way, you can quickly keep a master file of your COI learnings. Each time you have a COI, you can add one or more lines to the table. If there were several learnings from one COI, you can make several lines, each with the person’s name and the same date. Tags allow you flexibly to reference the context of each learning point, especially if you don’t mention the topic words directly in your note of learning. You can then use a search function to find learning points for that topic across all your COI’s. Or you can simply read over your whole COI diary as a sequential history.


Here’s an example format (a spreadsheet version looks very similar)



p<>{color:#000;}. Date
p<>{color:#000;}. Learning points
p<>{color:#000;}. Tags





Burnett, W. and Evans, D. . Designing your _*life._ [*London:] Chatto & Windus. This book captures the learnings of a highly regarded course at Stanford, helping students in many fields apply a design ethos to creating a satisfying and rewarding life. The authors recommend organising what we would call Conversations of Inquiry as a way of “prototyping” life and work strategies.


The authors introduce the book in this video.




Dalton, S. (2012). The 2-hour job search. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

This book is a guide, by a leader of the placement office at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business School, to the latest insights and techniques for effective job search in our digital world. Dalton’s “informational interviews” are an important special case of Conversations of Inquiry.


The author describes his methodology and approach in this video:





Lewitz, O. and Neidhardt, C. (2016). _*Showing up._ [*Berlin: LeanPub.]

This book introduces the Temenos journey of personal and collective leadership development, as invented by consultant Siraj Sirajuddin and offered internationally by the TrustTemenos Leadership Academy. The Temenos journey employs creative map- ping techniques we describe and advocate for use in Conversations of Inquiry in this ebook.


Co-author Olaf Lewitz explains in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQ8OgL6Jd5Q



Rowland, E. and Rozenthuler, S. (2016). Leading Systemic Dialogue.

London: The Whole Partnership.

This ebook introduces the principles of holding creative dialogues, of which COI’s are a special case. The authors invite an awareness of the systemic context – what are the larger set of human relationships surrounding the people directly involved in the conver- sation. They are world leaders in working with human systems and in holding creative and powerful dialogue.


Here is a link to obtain the ebook in electronic form. http://www.wholepartnership.com/ebooks/


Scharmer, C. (2009). _*Theory U._ [*San Francisco, Calif. : Berrett-Koehler.]

This book introduces in detail an approach to collaborative, creative journeys of inquiry. Part of the author’s approach is to encourage people to listen at progressively deeper levels. We reference and advocate this approach to listening in this ebook. The author,

C. Otto Scharmer, is a Senior Lecturer at MIT and the lead sponsor of one of the most widely followed online global trainings in leadership development, u.lab https://www.edx.org/course/u-lab-leading-emerging-future-mitx-15-671-1x


Here is Scharmer on video explaining his approach to levels of listening. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLfXpRkVZaI



Udall, N. . Riding the Creative Rollercoaster: How Leaders Evoke *Creativity,] [[*Pro-] ductivity and _*Innovation._ [*London:] Kogan Page.


This book presents an approach to innovative leadership, viewed as a continual series of journeys of inquiry, venturing over and over again into the unknown. The author, a lead- ing international consultant on creating cultures of innovation, uses the metaphor of a creative rollercoaster to describe these repeated journeys to breakthrough. In this ebook, we invite readers to use this mental model as they conduct Conversations of Inquiry.


This video, produced by the author’s consulting firm, carries viewers through the

rollercoaster journey.





















We sometimes hear people speak about “being world-class” and “winning.”


Usually these ideas turn out to be about individual achievement and being better than others.


Instead, we invite you to be the creative genius you were meant to be, to create

projects, teams and communities – including organizations and companies – that allow you and others to realize their creative potential. If you do that, we believe the ‘success’ will be there for everyone.


We invite you to help many others to be the creative geniuses they were meant to be. It’s not about comparison, being better than someone else, or winning in that sense. It’s about being the best you can be and helping many others do the same. That’s what "win- ning' really means to us.


Our hope is that, in a small way, Conversations of Inquiry will help us all as we undertake those journeys of discovery.


Scott Downs, a former banker, management consultant and entrepreneur now works to call forward great leaders and great organizations on the basis of great cultures.


Jerry Doyle is Vice Provost for Student Access, Success and Diversity initiatives at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He leads teams that create ideas, relationships, and collaborative partnerships to strengthen long-term sustainable enrollment pathways to higher education, and to support students and alumni in their career paths through and beyond graduation.


Annie Littrell Senior is the Director of the Illinois Tech Global Leaders Program in Chicago. Through her experience with program development, instruction, service learning, and research, she has focused on providing tools for people from diverse backgrounds to understand their narratives and unique leadership potential.


Tracy Skala, a Career Development Coach at the Illinois Institute of Technology, works with students to derive meaning from their experiences, recognize their talents, and apply their strengths to create a purposeful career.


© Copyright 2016

Conversations of Inquiry

Do you need help from someone to understand, decide on, or secure the kind of work you want? Do you need help from someone to understand, decide on, or secure the next stage of your personal education or training? Is there something you need to learn more about - academically, professionally or personally? Is there a subject about which you simply feel you need to widen your horizons or take a new, wider or different view? Do you need to expand your network of coaches, mentors, advisers, or advocates as you consider your learning journey or your personal or professional growth? If your answer to any one of these questions is yes, we invite you to become a master of Conversations of Inquiry. By Conversations of Inquiry, me mean any kind of conversation you might initiate as a way of learning something, making a new connection or expanding your horizons. This short invitational ebook includes key insights about conversation, inquiry and dialogue drawn from some of today’s best thinkers about career development, communication, learning and personal and organisational leadership. It includes case studies and experiential insights from the student, staff and alumni communities of the Illinois Institute of Technology, several of whose leaders and staff have contributed to its development. About the authors: Scott Downs, a former banker, management consultant and entrepreneur, now works to call forward great leaders and great organizations on the basis of great cultures. Jerry Doyle is Vice Provost for Student Access, Success and Diversity initiatives at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He leads teams that create ideas, relationships, and collaborative partnerships to strengthen long-term sustainable enrollment pathways to higher education, and to support students and alumni in their career paths through and beyond graduation. Annie Littrell Senior is the Director of the Illinois Tech Global Leaders Program in Chicago. Through her experience with program development, instruction, service learning, and research, she has focused on providing tools for people from diverse backgrounds to understand their narratives and unique leadership potential. Tracy Skala, a Career Development Coach at the Illinois Institute of Technology, works with students to derive meaning from their experiences, recognize their talents, and apply their strengths to create a purposeful career.

  • ISBN: 9781370253302
  • Author: Gerald Doyle
  • Published: 2017-04-17 20:36:54
  • Words: 15162
Conversations of Inquiry Conversations of Inquiry