Radical Inquiry is a process of using three questions to clarify vision for an individual or group to help them identify specific actions for moving toward what they want. It uses a modified Venn diagram to explore the conditions (see the Eoyang’s CDE model that can generate the patterns they want in their lives to move them toward their ultimate goals. Traditionally in a Venn diagram, the overlapping space between circles reflects the points of similarity in the two circles. In this application, however, the overlap represents the emergent patterns that come from the conditions represented in the circles themselves.
For example in the picture of the Radical Inquiry here, you see that where the circle labeled “Who am I?” overlaps on one side with the “What’s important?” circle. It represents the emergent pattern that is possible when y take action to pursue what is important to you
- The “Sweet Spot” - In the center of the Radical Inquiry is a clear focus on the goals or dreams that the individual or group want to move toward. It’s not a full-blown vision statement, but it does need to crystalize the purpose or focus that drives the work and action. Once that is clear, a brief statement is written in the center where all three circles overlap.
As you can see in the HSD Radical Inquiry, the “Sweet Spot” is the tagline we use, “Change the world by changing how we think about the world.” We believe this captures the whole focus of our work.
- Who are we? – This question asks individuals and/or groups to clarify the identity allows a group to define who they are together and how they want to be known, if they are to move toward their Sweet Spot. It answers the question, “Given what I/we ultimately want, what identify is most likely to get me/us there?”
In creating the HSD Radical Inquiry, we asked ourselves, how we had to show up in the world if we were to achieve that Sweet Spot. What we recognized was that what we have to represent to the world is “Adaptive Capacity.” That may not seem like an identity, but what it means is that when people think about HSD, we want them to think of Adaptive Capacity—we want that to be how others identify our work.
- What’s important around here? – This question allows a group to identify their differences that make a difference, how they contribute to the whole, and how they each contribute to their shared successes, relative to their Sweet Spot.
In the HSD Radical Inquiry, “Coherence” is the difference that makes a difference. It is the focus of each decision, the goal of each new learning, the solution we seek when tension builds across our system.
- How do we share resources? – The question in this third circle asks the the group to define how they want to relate to each other and to the greater environment in their work toward the Sweet Spot.
In HSD, the only way we believe we can build adaptive capacity and move toward changing how people think about their worlds is to stand in inquiry and to make meaning from that perspective. We believe that if we use that to frame our connections and our exchanges, we will be in the best position to engage with others, moving with them toward coherence and adaptive capacity. Ultimately this model also reflects the patterns we believe will emerge at the intersections of the conditions. When we stand in the world as the source of adaptive capacity and we focus on coherence, then we believe the emergent patterns will reflect strong identity across the scales of the Institute and the field of HSD. When we stand in the space of adaptive capacity and remain in inquiry and meaning making, we believe the patterns that emerge will be about the the attraction of many other to the field, and its subsequent expansion because of the growth of new ideas and learning. Finally, when we focus on coherence from a stance of inquiry and meaning making, we believe we will generate patterns of clarity around our approaches and the credibility of both the field and the individuals’ work in the field. Those are the broadest emergent patterns we see as potential outcomes as we make decisions and take action to set these conditions.
Overall, Radical Inquiry is a process that can be used by groups of all sizes and individuals to help them clarify desired patterns of interaction and behavior, and to define actions they can take immediately to begin to generate those patterns.