Book Rec: Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling by Edgar Schein

I’m a smoosher. I steal this term from Emilie Wapnick, who created the term “multipotentialite” and founded Basically, I take two ideas and smoosh them together to see what happens. I like to see what emerges when to previously unrelated concepts collide. So one of my go-to practices is smooshing stuff together.

One of the best multi-purpose smooshables I’ve seen is Humble Inquiry. It’s a method of communication that calls for asking sincere, non-leading questions and then being truly open to what you’ll hear back. HUMBLE INQUIRY IS MAGIC, YOU GUYS. IT IS MY HAMMER AND ALL THE WORLD IS A NAIL.

Edgar Schein wrote the book (this is not an affiliate link, it’s just a regular link to Amazon).  It’s aimed at business types, but it works anywhere. Talking to the husbeast? Humble Inquiry. Talking to a friend about her troubles? Humble Inquiry. Want to get to know a stranger. BAM. Humble Inquiry.The

The cool thing about Humble Inquiry is that it opens windows into the minds of other people. If you’re not angling for something or expecting something, you get the chance to be appropriately delighted, surprised, or responsive to what actually comes out of the other person’s mouth (or hands, if they’re signing.)

And you can smoosh Humble Inquiry with anything:

  1. Permaculture Workshop PLUS Humble Inquiry = very yes
  2. Conversation with politically different but pleasant uncle PLUS Humble Inquiry = Thanksgiving doesn’t end in tears
  3. Business meeting PLUS Humble Inquiry = a meeting in which you both understand the needs of the organization and how you can help

The options are endless, but you get the idea.

I definitely recommend the book, but you can practice Humble Inquiry anywhere you go by using the following two steps:

  1. Ask a question that doesn’t angle for a specific reply
  2. Listen carefully to what you hear



Minecraft and Management

I just began taking college courses through University of the People. In their matriculation process, they automatically register you in two introductory classes. To my delight, as a new business administration management, one of the two classes I am taking is Principles of Business Management.

As my mom said on the phone, “That sounds really boring.” MAYBE SO. MAYBE NOT. As it happens, I am also diving deep into a new Minecraft server. In Minecraft and management alike, creepers abound. But so too do interesting new ideas.

Frex, in Minecraft, I have just learned that you can make pumpkin bread. And blueberry muffins. What is this, I ask, if not a glorious and interesting opportunity? BTW I made blueberry muffins in real life posthaste, because muffins.

The textbook that we’re using for this is Principles of Management by Mason Carpenter et al.  

You can tell that Mason Carpenter knows a lot about business because he has two trade names. Hoar hoar hoar, I am the funniest.

But in Principles, the authors talk about how management is about PLOCing. That is to say, planning, leading, organizing, and controlling. It turns out, in that magical SMOOSH way, that Minecraft offers an example of how to plan, lead, organize, and control.

That’s right, you heard it here first. Minecraft can help you enhance your managerial capabilities.


Just like different management roles, in Minecraft, planning can have a different level of emphasis based on your goals and where you are in the game. But you usually do at least a little bit of this. For example, you need to come up with a plan for survival (if you’re on a survival server.) You need torches, food, shelter, and tools to do this – and you need to lay out those things in a configuration that fits your needs.


Once you’ve set yourself up for survival, new questions come into play. What makes Minecraft fun for you? Do you love to fight baddies, build extravagant castles, explore an infinitely generated world, collaborate with friends, play pvp battles, or troll your fellow players? Your goals will influence how you lead (that is: wield influence) in-game. For example, if you decide to be a trollish prankster, you may adapt a sneaky mean, misleading and snickering your way throughout the land. But if you want to collaborate with your friends to create an automated cake bakery, you’ll need to be communicative and helpful. As you can see, your goals will help you choose your leadership methods for the time and place.

(My favorite thing is releasing dozens of chickens into my friend’s shelters, but I’m immature and you shouldn’t follow my example.)


Inventory quickly becomes an issue. Each chest only holds so many items, so figuring out how you’re going to store and label your items gets to be important if you have a lot of stuff. It’s no fun to search ten chests just to find the iron bucket that you need. And when you’re in the big time, with ten thousand or more items, having a computerized, auto-sorting inventory system becomes the only way to keep things manageable (DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE FRIENDS?).


This doesn’t mean being controlling or manipulative. It just means assessing whether or not you’re meeting your goals and then making adjustments based on what you discover. This can be fairly bald: Did you release chickens into your friend’s base, y/n? Did the automated cake bakery actually happen? But these are arbitrary things to measure.

More to the point: do you find Minecraft recreationally useful? Are you achieving a state of flow? Relaxing? Laughing your butt off? Or is the tedium of branch mining sucking you dry? If you’re not having fun, you might change your approach to the game – for example by trolling more or less, by listening to music or podcasts while you mine, or by switching to story-driven creations such as cottages filled with hand-written journals that tell a narrative rather than trying to automate a factory.

But what do you think? Can Minecraft actually help you understand different management techniques? Or can management, perhaps, help us with Minecraft? I’d love to hear your take. Leave me a comment and let’s talk about it. =)