Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Focus Questions

If you work with facilitators sooner or later you will see “Focus Questions” being used to help guide thinking and discussions.  When presented with an issue, it is easy for a group to approach it from many different directions, not all of which will be immediately useful.  By framing the debate as a response to a “Focus Question”, the group are encouraged to pay attention to particular aspects of the problem or its solution.  As is implied, the question provides focus.
“Focus Questions” are often used in workshops but they may also be used as part of the preparation for a meeting or workshop.  They are issued with the workshop brief under a heading such as d“preparation for the workshop”.  Use in this way, “Focus Questions” can help direct the attendees thinking before the meeting itself.  It helps them understand better what the meeting is about, what answers are sought and what not to waste time on.
image When used as meeting preparation, “Focus Questions” may be listed as part of the brief. 
To provide a little imagemore structure, and to help the attendees visualise their response better, it can be useful to present the questions as part of a template that includes space for responses, thoughts and notes.   This can be prepared as simple table, using Excel or Word, say.
“Focus Question” templates can also be presented as a map with lots of space for notes.  The map can be sent as a PDF for the attendees to print, or if they have the appropriate software, such as MindView, it can be sent as file for the participants to complete.  MindView can do either.
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If it is important to collate the responses to the questions, using mapping software is a great way to do this – bringing together all the responses against the relevant branches or topics on the map.

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