Author(s): Edgar H. Schein
We live, says Ed Schein, in a culture of Tell. Rather than trying to genuinely relate to other people we tell them what we think they need to know or should do based on assumptions we've made about them. But telling makes people feel inferior - it shuts them down. This is particularly true of interactions between superiors and subordinates, and that's where it's particularly problematic. In today's complex, interconnected, rapidly changing world hierarchy means nothing - anybody anywhere could have that vital fact or insight that could mean the difference between success or disaster. A free flow of information is crucial. Humble Inquiry builds the kinds of positive, trusting, balanced relationships that encourage honest and open interactions in both our professional and personal lives. Schein defines Humble Inquiry as "the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person." In this seminal work he explores the concept of humility, looks at how Humble Inquiry differs from other kinds of inquiry, offers examples of Humble Inquiry in action in many different settings, and shows how to overcome the cultural, organizational and psychological barriers that keep us from practicing it. This is a major new contribution to how we see human dynamics and relationships, presented in a compact, personal, eminently practical way.
"I have had the privilege of working with Ed Schein. Reading Humble Inquiry I could hear his voice asking me those humble questions that joined us in a mutual search for the answer. His book distills what he has learned and practiced in a lifetime of helping high-powered leaders be even more successful."--Anthony F. Earley, Jr., Chairman, CEO and President, PG&E Corporation "Schein helps us understand the importance of transcending hierarchy and authority to build authentic relationships predicated on trust and respect. Humble iInquiry is a powerful approach to building safe environments for our people and, ultimately, our patients."--Gary S. Kaplan MD, Chairman and CEO, Virginia Mason Health System "Quiet wisdom from an expert, enlivened by personal examples. Insightful and easy to read, it made me look again at my own behavior in my relationships, both at work and in the home."--Charles Handy "An invaluable guide for a consultant trying to understand and untangle system and interpersonal knots. Written with a beguiling simplicity and clarity, it is laden with wisdom and practicality." --Irvin Yalom, MD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Stanford University "The lessons contained in this deceptively simple book reach beyond the author's experience gained from a lifetime of consultation to organizations of all sizes and shapes. It provides life lessons for us all. If, as a result of reading this book, you begin to practice the art of humble asking, you will have taken an important step toward living wisely."--Samuel Jay Keyser, Peter de Florez Professor Emeritus, MIT "This book seriously challenges leaders to re-examine the emphasis on task orientation and 'telling' subordinates how best to do their jobs. Humble Inquiry increases organizational capacity to learn more from cross-cultural teamwork, reduces stress, and increases organizational engagement and productivity."--Jyotsna Sanzgiri, MBA, PhD, Professor
Edgar Schein is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and a Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author of many articles and books, including Helping, Process Consultation Revisited, The Corporate Culture Survival Guide, DEC Is Dead Long Live DEC Organizational Culture and Leadership, and Career Anchors. He has defined the field of organizational culture and has consulted with many organizations in the United States and overseas on organizational culture, organization development, process consultation, and career dynamics. What has distinguished Schein's work is his combination of sociology, anthropology, and social psychology.