Question Bank: A place to invest your organization's important questions

good questions

It’s been said there is more learning in the question itself than the answer. If your organization emphasizes learning; then good questions represent an investment in learning. To better manage that investment, why not maintain a question bank.

Last week I participated in a meeting with some mediator colleagues involved in the The Court Mediation Program in British Columbia. One of the topics of discussion was good questions and the idea of question banks, as referenced in an article by Corinne Miller of InnovatingResults!. It got me thinking a bit more about question banks and their potential.

Question banks and collaboration

Basically, a question bank is a repository or database of questions, from which one can draw on. Questions are collected, organized, used, and refined, in ways that makes sense (i.e., provide value) to the organization. A question bank fits well with the collaborative way of doing things; with openly sharing and learning together. Question banks can support:

  • Knowledge management. Question banks provide a medium for retaining and passing on knowledge (e.g., which questions work the best) from one generation to the next.
  • Communities of practice. Question banks provide groups of people, who share a common set of problems, concerns or interests, with a way to learn and grow as a group.
  • Project delivery. Work teams can draw on question banks e.g., for questions that help to better understand project stakeholders and their needs.

Some practicalities

Unless you are going to keep the question bank only for yourself, you are going to want to establish the bank in a central locale, easily accessible to all who might use the bank. Some practical considerations (and in the spirit of asking questions) to ask yourself include:
  • What application will I use to create a question bank? An online spreadsheet (see this Mashable article about 14 different online spreadsheet applications)? A wiki (maybe including spreadsheets and page tagging)? Other Web 2.0/custom/off-the-shelf application?
  • Where will the application be hosted? Do I have the resources to host/maintain the application in-house, or will I have to go outside my organization and use a hosted service?
  • Is the application flexible? Extensible? Easy-to-use (e.g., easy to add new questions, easy to modify how questions are categorized and tagged)?
  • Is the application compatible with keeping meaningful metrics around question use, and analyzing and making decisions based on those metrics?

What if?

How much is a good question worth? What if it gave positive momentum to your conversation? What if it offered a predictor of success in your interactions with another? What if it was a way to demonstrate your values?

Coming up with good questions is part art, part science. When you find a good question, why not share it, use it, and learn from it. Is there a better ROI than having a good question at-hand?

What questions will you keep in your question bank?

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