My previous post highlighted the choices we make to pay attention to certain perspectives (and ignore others) when engaging in deliberations and decision-making.
Earlier posts have also canvassed a wide range of models and frameworks that can be adapted for uses suitable to your nonprofit governance or management circumstances. De Bono’s six thinking hats, design thinking, systems thinking, theory of change, problem-solving, risk bow-ties, and many others have been referenced. Collectively, these models and frameworks offer a repertoire of approaches and methods that a skilled director or manager can select from as appropriate, given the demands of the situation they are dealing with. No one approach will be suitable for all possible circumstances.
This post extends that repertoire (with material largely generated from ChatGPT prompts), highlighting selected thinking models and frameworks normally used by teachers, for adaptation and use by directors and managers. Where you see ‘students‘ mentioned in descriptions and explanations, substitute the words ‘director‘ or ‘manager‘ as appropriate.
As well as offering ways of interacting during board deliberations, these frameworks may also be useful when planning quality improvement and professional development programs for directors – especially those focused on deliberative, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.
6 Thinking and Questioning Frameworks
The charts which punctuate this post provide broad descriptions of six models or frameworks, and brief comparative analyses of their structure, emphasis, application, and focus. While some are graduated models (simple to complex), others take a range of perspectives and offer a wide selection of ‘filters’ or ‘lenses’ that can be applied to your deliberations on material presented for board consideration.
Examples of some types of questions a director might use during board deliberations employing aspects of these frameworks are offered below.
- Bloom’s Taxonomy
Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies questions into cognitive levels, ranging from basic knowledge acquisition to higher-order thinking skills.
Examples of Questions:
- Knowledge (Remembering): “Can you recall the main events from the story?”
- Comprehension (Understanding): “How would you summarize the author’s argument in your own words?”
- Application (Applying): “How can you apply the principles of physics to solve this real-world problem?”
- Analysis (Analyzing): “What are the key components of this complex system, and how do they interact?”
- Synthesis (Creating): “Can you design a new marketing strategy for this product?”
- Evaluation (Evaluating): “What criteria would you use to assess the effectiveness of this solution?”
- Williams’ Taxonomy
Williams’ Taxonomy is another framework for categorising and structuring questions, with a focus on fostering creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.
Examples of Questions:
- Creative Exploration: “Can you brainstorm and come up with three entirely new ideas for solving this design problem?”
- Innovation Challenge: “How can you apply unconventional approaches to address this issue?”
- Problem-Solving: “What steps would you take to troubleshoot and resolve this technical challenge?”
- Entrepreneurship: “Imagine you’re starting a new business. How would you market this product/service effectively?”
- Collaborative Thinking: “How can you facilitate teamwork and collaboration among team members to achieve a common goal?”
- Costas’ Levels of Thinking (Cognitive Complexity)
Costas’ Levels of Thinking categorises questions into various levels of cognitive complexity, encouraging deeper thinking.
Examples of Questions:
- Surface Level (Concrete): “What are the facts presented in the board paper?”
- Deep Level (Abstract): “What are the underlying themes or motifs in this artwork?”
- Transfer Level (Transcendental): “How might the concepts from this situation apply to other real-world situations?”
- Deep Transfer Level (Transformative): “How can you synthesise different theories to create a novel approach?”
- 16 Habits of Mind
The 16 Habits of Mind, developed by Costa and Kallick, is a set of dispositions that promote effective problem-solving, critical thinking, and lifelong learning. These habits encourage students to approach challenges with a growth mindset and develop skills for success in various aspects of life.
Examples of Questions (Using some of the 16 Habits of Mind):
- Listening with Understanding and Empathy: “Can you summarise what your colleague just said to ensure you understand their perspective?”
- Thinking Flexibly: “What alternative solutions can you generate to solve this problem from different angles?”
- Thinking about Your Thinking (Metacognition): “Reflect on your thought process while solving this problem. Are there any improvements you can make?”
- Striving for Accuracy: “How can you ensure that your research findings are accurate and free from errors or bias?”
- Questioning and Posing Problems: “What questions can you ask to delve deeper into this topic and uncover its complexities?”
- Jamie McKenzie’s Questioning Toolkit
Jamie McKenzie’s Questioning Toolkit provides a range of question types and strategies to foster critical thinking and inquiry.
Examples of Questions (Using Selected Strategies):
- Reality Check Questions: “Is this information accurate and reliable, or do we need to verify it?”
- Solution-Finding Questions: “What are some possible solutions to this problem, and what are their pros and cons?”
- Significance Questions: “Why is this event significant, and how does it relate to the broader historical context?”
- Perspective Questions: “How might this issue look from the perspective of different stakeholders?”
- Investigative Questions: “What additional research or data do we need to fully understand this topic?”
- Tony Ryan’s Thinkers’ Keys
Tony Ryan’s Thinkers’ Keys offers a set of 20 creative thinking strategies or “keys” to stimulate diverse thinking.
Examples of Questions (Using a Few Keys):
- Inventor Key: “What if you were to invent a new gadget (or system/process) to solve this problem? Describe it.”
- Question Key: “What questions would a detective ask to solve this mystery?”
- Character Key: “If you were an actor in this incident, how would you react differently?”
- Mathematical Key: “Can you use mathematical formulas or algorithms to model and analyse this situation?”
- Disadvantages Key: “What are the potential drawbacks of this proposed solution?”
Context sensitivity and question relevance
Each of these six frameworks and toolkits offers unique approaches to thinking and questioning, catering to various decision-making and problem-solving needs. You can choose the framework/s that best align/s with your goals and the type of thinking you want to promote or employ in a given context.
A question relevant to one topic is not necessarily relevant to another. Likewise, a question that is relevant at one stage of a board’s deliberation on a given topic will not be appropriate at another stage. For instance, it is not helpful to pose open-ended questions aimed at stimulating divergent thinking when seeking to agree (converge) on a definition of the need (or problem), or to come to a decision as to the best option to be chosen.
The following chart suggests some question types suitable for the four major stages of the ‘design thinking‘ approach (the 4Ds comprising Discovery, Definition, Development, and Delivery) , with divergent and convergent stages associated with each of the problem and solution ‘spaces’.