The Socratic Method – The Key to Unlocking Your Ability to Learn, Create & Problem-Solve

The Magic of a Question

Something almost magical happens when another person asks us a question and then truly listens to our reply. Like the proverbial key to a treasure chest filled with incredible riches, questions somehow unlock our brains. They help us invent new ideas, see an issue from different perspectives, and discover solutions we never knew that we knew!

Because such knowledge comes from within us, not from the outside world, it is truly “ours.” By this I mean it quickly becomes part of our conscious knowledge; it is not something that we have to “stuff in” to our brains or cram for in order to learn.

This approach to learning and problem-solving has become known as the “Socratic Method.” First mentioned by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues (4th century B.C.E.), the method consists at heart of a conversation between two people: the Questioner/Listener and the Speaker. The Greeks used the Socratic Method to explore philosophical questions revolving around ethics and morals. In modern times, many law schools have adopted it as a way of teaching students to think like a lawyer.

Both of these uses can be quite confrontational, however, because they usually involve the defense of one point of view against another. They also assume that the Questioner is an “expert” whose goal is to lead the Speaker to a particular point of view or understanding using a series of carefully chosen questions.

Unlocking the Genius Within

In contrast to this application, people in the Creativity and Accelerated Learning movements have begun to take a different approach. One man in particular – Win Wenger – has contributed to the field. Author of “The Einstein Factor: A Proven New Method for Increasing Your Intelligence,” Win has developed myriad questioning techniques that emphasize open-ended exploration. In his approach, there is no “right” answer, no final destination. Instead, the Speaker is encouraged to explore, invent, and experience his or her own creative journey.

And the only expertise required from the Questioner is the ability to listen well, ask questions, and encourage thoughtful responses.

As a result, many people have discovered that when someone asks them questions about an issue that is meaningful to them–and truly listens to their answers–the doors open to their own creative genius deep inside themselves.

Whatever We Focus On Grows

Part of the reason for this, Win explains, is that describing our perceptions out loud in detail to another person stimulates our ability to perceive in ever greater depth. In other words, whatever we focus on grows. The more aware we are of own perceptions, the greater our ability to create and solve problems.

Win believes strongly that:

“Genius is already there in nearly everyone if given its chance to express and emerge. It’s there in your own awareness, not in someone else’s second-hand, rote-memorized data.”

And the questioning/speaking process inherent in the Socratic Method not only reinforces such perceptions, but also the overall trait of being aware.

So if your goal is to develop your creativity or come up with a unique solution to something that challenges you, find someone to talk to: someone who will ask you questions and listen carefully to your answers.

Copyright © 2009 Clarice Dankers. All rights reserved. Clarice Dankers, MA, is a writer, editor and personal coach in Portland, Oregon, who draws on the power of story to help her clients grow their businesses, get published, and open the door to new possibilities. For more information, go to:

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