Recently, I came across an interesting chapter from a book that unpacked different scenarios and their failings around participants’ fear of asking questions. While reading, I began to reflect on the nature of different organisations (within which I’ve worked and facilitated), questioning whether they have a visible culture of trust and an openness to having leadership decisions questioned.
The book in question is aptly named, Developing More Curious Minds, by John Barell. Chapter one shares several scenarios where disaster has struck but could have been avoided if questions had been asked or, in some cases, listened to. From analysing failings at Texas A&M through to the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy by Nato planes in the Former Yugoslavia, they all had the overlapping feature of someone being afraid to challenge a decision, or not making their case heard due to the nature of hierarchy within the organisations. Another dominant feature was the commonality of government-run administrations. Perhaps coincidence, but it alluded to the fact that being a government-run organisation, the hierarchical structure did not allow for leadership or larger decisions to be questioned. Of course, the parallel was eventually drawn to higher educational establishments. The question is around whether we should all embrace the model displayed by scientists, whereby new information and data is questioned widely across the scientific community, in order to challenge, prove, or disprove.
When analysing a bonfire collapse at Texas A&M in 1999, a commission found: