The hashtag #IfIDieInASchoolShooting on Twitter has teens across the US expressing their deepest fears of what could happen to them in their once ‘safe’ schools. As a father, it saddens me that our youth has to even imagine this pain and what could potentially happen to them. But could #Questioneering bring about a viable solution to this horrendous problem?
The people have spoken and the world is paying close attention. But are we unable to find a concrete solution because we aren’t addressing the right questions?
With increasing frequency, we as Americans are reminded with brutal force and devastating regularity of a problem that shakes the very foundation of our souls as human beings. That problem is the mass shootings that have spread throughout the country at a breakneck rate.
Most recently in Santa Fe, Texas, and before it, Parkland, Florida; and before that in Benton, Kentucky; and before that in Aztec, New Mexico; going back as far as memory on a given day cares to reach, American students were shot and killed in their schools. And it’s not just schools that are being targeted. A few months ago, YouTube headquarters in San Bruno faced a similar situation when a disgruntled content producer infiltrated into their offices.
Each of these shootings happened in the last six months and resulted in multiple student deaths. I have been moved, as I am sure many of you have, by the amazing resilience and courage of students across the country as they come together to speak with a single loud voice. A single loud voice that clearly states that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE.
I hear you. I hear you loud and clear. And the students are right. Something must be done about this tragic recurring theme of mass shootings. But there is a huge problem that lies within the discussions that are being held.
Instead of thinking proactively as to how we can prevent these issues from recurring, much of the recent conversation around possible solutions has focused on a responsive approach, triggered by the unique characteristics of every individual event. Legislative whack-a-mole has proven (unsurprisingly) not to be up to the task of addressing what is a truly urgent issue.
But regardless of political opinion, what every single observer has in common is the hope that something can be done to solve the epidemic of gun violence in American schools. From the bottom of my heart, I truly do believe that something can be done to solve this epidemic as well. Yet, so far, standard debates and attempts at policy development have proven insufficient to effect change.
From my experience as a leader in multiple companies faced with a multitude of challenges, I have come to find that the true solution to problems is found by spending time on figuring out the right questions to ask. And more often than not, we look to the first question that comes to mind and begin to answer it, without any thought if we are answering the right question in the first place.
For example, some of the most common questions you may have seen include:
Should the laws that allow the purchase of a gun be stricter?
Should guns be banned from America?
Should gun stores be removed from our country?
Is the media doing the right thing by broadcasting mass shootings through national television?
And the list goes on…
In what follows, I suggest that current answers may be insufficient to address resolving the issue of mass shootings because the questions are as well.
What can we learn by taking a different, and new, approach to this issue? We can start by being more careful and thoughtful about where every policy conversation necessarily begins: with a question. It’s an important place to start, so it’s worth taking the time to consider the process of questioning itself.
This is the foundation of my new book Questioneering: that breakthrough innovation is more often the result of changing our questions rather than our answers. We would all stand to benefit from raising the level of questioning to finally arrive at a set of solutions that can prove successful. To that end, we will be applying Questioneering to the issue of gun violence in American schools, over the course of the next few weeks.
I invite you to join us and become part of an essential conversation by starting now: taking aim at the issue, and articulating a few questions to help locate yourself within the debate and gain a broader understanding of the issue.
To start, here are a few questions to consider as we begin the process of figuring out the high value question we should be asking:
Should we focus on how to improve our ability to protect students and teachers once a threat is on the school grounds or should we turn our attention to focus on early detection and prevention?
How do we distinguish between types of weapons that are more dangerous in school shooting situations?
How do we prevent at risk individuals who can legally purchase a firearm from entering school grounds with a gun?
And so forth.
With that in mind, I want to engage my broader community with an eye toward finding a solution for this devastating problem.