Triggering Question

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Triggering Question is a term used in the context of Dialogic Design Science. It refers to the key question used to initiate an SDDP: Structured Dialogic Design Process.

Triggering questions are very important mainly because they help the Lead SDD Facilitator to keep the discussion focused on the subject, and because they prompt the participants to think and formulate innovative responses. For example, during the first phase of an SDDP, the Lead SDD Facilitator collects single-sentence responses to the Triggering Question. This leaves no space for the participants to start talking about something else, vis-à-vis, if they do so, the facilitator can always remind them of the process. The robin-round process of collecting their responses also helps level out power differences among them and encourages them to think outside of the box and discover challenges they would otherwise miss and/or generate new solutions. More often than not, people tend to begin prematurely to address a challenge before they truly understand what Hasan Özbekhan called the Problématique, i.e., the problem, and without studying possible inter-relations and inter-depencancies with other factors. Einstein supposedly stated that "if I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes." [1], [2]

The formulation of the best possible Triggering Question is not a simple task. The choice of words and the order in which they are used might make all the difference. For example, consider the questions:

  • What is the sum of 5 plus 5?
  • What two numbers add up to 10?

While the first one has only one correct answer, the second has an infinite number of solutions![3]. This example demonstrates how the way we ask a question determines the frame into which the answers fall. By changing the frame, one can dramatically change the type and range of possible responses.