Advocacy and Inquiry: The Secret to Effective Meetings

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What does the advocacy and inquiry decision-making process entail? What mindset is required to make the decision-making process effective?

Advocacy and inquiry is a decision-making style where each party in a meeting presents their arguments and asks for comments and questions from other participants. The process creates an open environment where ideas are challenged and fine-tuned, which improves the critical reasoning skills of participants. Each participant must be confident and open to being challenged.

Read on to learn more about the advocacy and inquiry decision-making process.

Advocacy and Inquiry

The process that has dominated meetings in America for decades—and also how we talk to one another—is one of advocacy. We’re asked to present our ideas and then defend them against attack from our colleagues using data and other collected evidence. 

However, successful companies are increasingly moving towards something termed advocacy and inquiry (assertive inquiry)—a discussion style that aids in the process of having open strategic discussions. This doesn’t simply swap out advocacy for questions. Advocacy is still essential for a well-functioning business (and society). Instead, assertive inquiry combines this process with an inquiry into the reasoning of everyone else. Implement these steps to make assertive inquiry work:

  1. Present your argument and ask for comments or questions.
    • Example: “To appeal to this market, I think we should use Approach A. What are the pros and cons of this approach, and what are alternative approaches?”
  2. Paraphrase the comments and questions back at the questioner so that you can better internalize them and understand them.
    • Example: “It seems you believe that Approach A won’t work because of Problem Y. Is that accurate?”
  3. Ask people to explain their opinions further when you don’t understand or disagree with them. 
    • Example: “Could you tell me more about why Problem Y would hinder Approach A?”

Not only does assertive inquiry sharpen our critical reasoning skills and make others look into the data and motivation behind their own ideas, but it also helps us be more open to change. If a group asks questions that force people to re-evaluate their preconceptions, individuals in that group will be more likely to change their minds about their own ideas. They’ll also be more likely to ask these kinds of questions of themselves. 

When taking part in advocacy and inquiry, be confident in yourself, but also know that you could have missed something that someone else can clarify or tease out. You’re both advocating and listening.

Advocacy and Inquiry: The Secret to Effective Meetings

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Joseph Adebisi

Joseph has had a lifelong obsession with reading and acquiring new knowledge. He reads and writes for a living, and reads some more when he is supposedly taking a break from work. The first literature he read as a kid were Shakespeare's plays. Not surprisingly, he barely understood any of it. His favorite fiction authors are Tom Clancy, Ted Bell, and John Grisham. His preferred non-fiction genres are history, philosophy, business & economics, and instructional guides.

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