Notes from Open Space on Enquiry/Inquiry vs Advocacy


Everyone knows how to advocate. There is usually a lot of it at work – advocacy is when you adopt a position and try to persuade someone else to accept your point of view,

Enquiry is very different from advocacy. It sometimes involves asking questions, but really it is a state of being – a bit like a being child where we don’t know the answer.

So we do ask questions, but not rhetorical questions – because we really don’t know the answer. Instead we want to work with others to find out the answer, or to reframe the question.


Questions that came up include “How does it end?”

This is a great question. We agreed that it’s a cycle. Someone enquires, then someone advocates, then there’s an enquiry, and another enquiry. Even after advocacy another enquiry starts. On an on. So there is no ‘end’.

Another question was “What about the HIPPO – the highest individual paid person’s opinion?” There are several facets to this question, but one we discussed was:

Practically how might you deal with a HIPPO? The answer we came up with is that it would be possible to enquire into this effect, by enquiring along these lines “I notice that when we make decisions the HIPPO seems to have more say. Is this the best way for our group to make decisions?”

Another question was “How would I apply this in my organisation?” This led to a discussion about what an organisation is – or indeed is there any such thing as an organisation. Pete suggested  (advocated!) that it is perhaps easier to think more in terms of an on-going conversation – people talk, other people listen, things get agreed, action happens, then there is more discussion.

Thinking about an organisation like this it is easier to see how to apply enquiry – every time we refrain from advocating and instead enquire (or the reverse) we potentially change the flow of the conversation. It will flow into different areas, different decisions may be made, leading to different actions, resulting in different outputs. And thus a different conversation.

All ‘organisational change’ – from changing a policy on expenses or a strategy for hiring people – is really result of changes in this conversational flow.

Best regards,
Pete Burden

Pete Burden

Helping businesses make decisions more quickly, effectively and consciously.

Tel:  01273 477 836
Most people find it unnecessary to print my emails.

Registered office: Conscious Business People Ltd, The Manse, Station Road, Plumpton Green, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 3BX. Registered in England. Company number: 07103599.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *