65 students to hop into the unknown
Updated: Mar 10
Right now, 65 international master students are bubble-hopping. They
are meeting with someone from another bubble. They use the skills
they have learned and will reflect on the meeting in an essay, and take
their learnings further in a short film.
Bubble brief at Stockholm School of Economics before Covid. Before hopping the students have been taught some basic theories about
social capital, attention economy, and cognitive bias, etc. They have been
trained in skills like listening, sharing, and, in particular, asking questions.
We are super curious about the outcome. In the next newsletter, we will
share what happened and what the students, and we, learned.
It is not the first time we ask students to bubble-hop. Close to 800 students
have bubble-hopped and reflected about it by now. The majority of them
have been both surprised and positive. We now have a team of five
teachers at Stockholm School of Economics, who knows how to run a
Parallel with teaching, I am writing the “Bubble Book”. Right now, I am
focusing on the skill of asking questions. The first-hand experiences from
the students are valuable.
There is a growing body of research showing how important questions are
if we want to bridge divides. The right kind of questions are crucial for
building trust in a meeting and to reach new understanding.
- Start with some easy questions to create connection, before you move
into more open-ended ones. Don’t forget to ask follow-up questions. Ask for
concrete examples, situations, and experiences.
- Don´t ask to prove the other person is wrong. Find instead out how he/she
came to that conclusion or opinion. Try to understand the motives behind –
and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- Do the same with the other person. Ask questions that might put them in
your shoes, see your perspective.
- Don’t shy away for the complex. Avoid easy dichotomies like the X vs. Y,
black or white-arguing. Making things more complex is known to be one of
the most important thing in conversations that can reach across divides.
- Try to repeat what you have heard and ask if you have understood it
correctly. Ask if something is missing. This “looping” builds trust. The other
feel heard and you get a receipt that you have understood.
- Remember that silent is the anagram of listen. Don’t bomb with questions.
Avoid to interrogate. Make space for answers. Let people think. And do the
same with yourself, think before asking.
All this is easier said than done, especially when you are in the midst of a
difficult conversation or just nervous or in a hurry. The advice is to practice
asking questions before you bubble-hop. Or at any occasion for that matter.
If you cannot remember all the advice above, don’t worry. We usually stick with question areas that work as a reminder:
1. Explore motive. Try to understand the motives behind the other
person’s standpoint. Why has something become so important to the other
2. Shift perspectives. Reflect on each other’s feelings and situations. How
does the other person feel when you share your story? And the other way
around: ask yourself how you would reason, if you were in the other
3. Move forward. Find common ground and a way forward. How could
you, together, solve the problem you are talking about? What can we do
The order of questions depends on the situation and conversation. Be
prepared to improvise. And remember to not only ask the other person, but
also ask yourself!
Finally, if you think questions are as interesting as we do, there are a lot of
resources on how to ask better ones. Here are some we like to go to for inspiration:
Warren Berger calls himself a “questionologist”, has written several books
Hal Gregersen, Exceutive Director of MIT Learning Center, knows a lot
about the role questions can play in innovation and organizations.
Amanda Ripley – 22 questions that ‘Complicate the Narrative’, a foundation
for a new movement of constructive journalism.
What are your favorite sources when it comes to questions? What is your