The Socratic Method is named after the famous Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates lived in the 5th century BC.
So you thought all business ideas where new!
The Socratic Method is also known as Socratic Questioning.
You use Socratic questioning to pursue thought in many directions.
It includes:

  • the exploration of ideas,
  • the uncovering of the truth or preconceived assumptions,
  • making the distinction between knowns and unknowns,
  • analyzing concepts,
  • following out logical consequences,
  • etc.

The Socratic approach is based on highly-disciplined, thoughtful dialogue. Socrates used it to help his students examine various ideas. He also used it to determine the validity of ideas. It limited the risk of falling prey to all sorts of logical fallacies. The teacher pretends to have no prior information about the subject. This method allows students to develop the most amount of knowledge for themselves.

It is an effective way to explore all sorts of ideas in-depth. The Socratic method can be used at all levels and different points within a given unit or project.

People can learn vital critical thinking skills, by:

  • debating,
  • analyzing, and
  • evaluating content,

through their thinking, as well as the thinking of those around them.

 

Tips for Using the Socratic Method:

  • Plan significant questions that will provide direction to the conversation.
  • Allow at least 30 seconds for people to respond to your questions.
  • Follow up on their responses.
  • Do not forget to ask probing questions.
  • On occasion, summarize the key points in writing.
  • Draw as many participants into the discussion as possible.
  • Leave participants to discover the knowledge on their own through the probing questions that you ask.

Examples of Questions used in the Socratic Method

 

Clarification Questions

  • What do you mean by…?
  • Could you explain that a different way?
  • hat’s the main issue here, in your opinion?
  • Can you provide an example here?
  • Could you expand on your point further?

Probing Questions

  • How can you verify or disprove this hypothesis?
  • What could we expect, instead?
  • Why is this question so important, in the first place?
  • Why do you think that?
  • What assumption can we draw from this question?

Reason and Evidence Questions

  • Why do you think this is the case here?
  • What sort of extra information is required here?
  • Could you explain your reasoning?
  • Is there a reason to doubt this evidence?

Source Questions

  • Is this idea your own, or have you heard it somewhere else?
  • Has this always been your point of view?
  • Have something or someone influenced your opinion?
  • What made you feel this way about the issue?

The Process

The significant difference between the Socratic method and regular discussions is that the former seeks ways to draw out first principles actively and systematically. The Socratic method usually follows this process:

  • Clarifying your thinking and explaining the origins of your ideas. “Why do I think this?”
  • Challenging assumptions about the topic. “How do I know this is true or not? What if I thought the opposite?”
  • Searching for proof. “What evidence do I have to back this up?”
  • Alternative perspectives. “What may others think about this?”
  • Examining the consequences and implications. “What if this is not the case and I am wrong? What would be the consequences if I am wrong?”
  • Questioning the original questions. “Why did I think like that before? Was I correct, to begin with? What conclusions can I draw?”

Conclusion

The level of questions asked influences the level of thinking that occurs during this type of process. With this in mind, it could take some trial-and-error before perfecting the process, but it will be worth it in the end.

Philip Uglow is the President of Renshi Consulting Group. Renshi lowers clients costs by pulling ideas from your people in the moment, when they are most busy with real work. This is when they learn. This is when they change.