Genius-inspired questions

There is a very important practice that great detectives, Pulitzer Prize winners, and creative geniuses have in common — a practice of asking paradigm-busting questions.

The following Genius-inspired Questioning process was inspired by three books (see references below). I hope that this GIS process will help you practice — and ultimately master — a habit of mind that has been shown to yield more insights and increase the chances that you will “see what others don’t — a crucial skill in any police investigation.

Instructions to students for GIQ assignments. In this course, you will be given weekly assignments. After you have done your reading and other assignments, please go to the relevant Class # in Blackboard and complete your GIQ notes before the deadline. (Usually 48 hours before start of class.) Note questions marked with a *star* are required. The others are recommended and optional if they apply to you.

Genius-inspired Questions

  1. *Questions were asked? What were the primary questions explored by the author(s)/ presenter(s)?
  2. *Know? What did you already know? Where, when, and/or how did you learn it?
  3. *Confused? What part of the reading, video, etc., left you puzzled? Provide a specific quote. Also provide a page number.
  4. *New? What information was new to you? What did you learn?
  5. *Useful? What information or conclusions would you like to take away and remember from this reading, video, etc.?
  6. *Missing? Whose voice, or what perspective or context is missing?
  7. *More Beautiful Questions? What new small or big “Why, What if and How” questions can you ask to extend the inquiry and discussion on this topic?
  8. *Declaring my blindspot(s). Research shows us that our human inductive reasoning process allows us to sometimes leap to conclusions. Often we get a physiological FEELING of certainty about our conclusion even when we are not correct. We all frequently have these “blindspots” and must go looking for them to avoid making mistakes. What are YOUR blindspots on this topic? How could YOU be mistaken about or biased for — or against — this topic? (see also Banaji & Greenwald 2013).

Answer the following questions IF they apply:

  1. Bothered? What irritated you if anything. Why exactly did this bother you? Note if you are “bothered or irritated” then there is a “friction” between what you have read,watched or listened to and something about you or your values, opinions, ethics, comfort, etc. This is an opportunity to learn more about how you process information.
  2. Unexpected? If something surprises you, then — good news — you have discovered you had a previous expectation. Explore what you expected and why you expected it.
  3. Challenged? What challenged your usual pattern of thinking?
  4. Connect-the-dots? What connections can you make between the assignment and anything else in your academic work, career, hobbies or personal life?
  5. Contradictions? What if any contradictions or exceptions did you spot?
  6. Other?

Here is a PDF of the GIQ instructions: Genius-inspired Questioning (GIQ) instructions


Dr. Jessica Motherwell McFarlane is a professional education consultant on gender, anti-oppression and social justice issues and a research associate at the Justice Institute of British Columbia. She is also the developer and director of the Life Outside the Box program that uses visual narratives as a way to SEE conflict and injustice from new perspectives. Jessica facilitates groups and schools needing to have complex — and sometimes emotionally painful — conversations. She offers workshops to at-risk children, youth, and adults on: Truth and Reconciliation, transforming bullying situations, and rehearsing best practices for self-care, inclusivity, and kindness.

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