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Seb Anthony

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A person was found dead in a field


I use an excercise based on the above to demonstrate the difference between open and closed questions. Although I heard it years ago and have been using it myself for 10 years I'm not sure whether it is too familiar now. Does anyone have any variations on this excercise for demonstrating open/closed questions.

Many thanks

Damian Burcher
Vison Sales Services
damian burcher

9 Responses

  1. Exercise to use
    I use an exercise to highlight the difference between open/closed questions which goes like this. I write the word Umberella on a piece of paper and ask the group to use open questions only – i.e who, what, why when where and how, to guess what it is, then they each ask a question.
    Then when they ask I give an ambiguous answer i.e
    “What is it” – its a word on a piece of paper
    “What is that word” Its the word I wrote down
    “What is that word you wrote down” A mixture of vowels and consenants
    “What colour is it” All sorts depends on what colour you want it
    “When or How do you use it”, people use it in bars (cocktail umberellas, in advertising (logos)or in the sun (parasol)
    “Where would you use it” – wherever I need it.
    Remember dont answer a closed question
    Get the drift it shows how difficult Open questions are to get to a desired result therefore they need to close it down, so they then have to ask closed questions only, this they find hard because they revert back to open ones, so remember dont answer them.
    Try it – see how it goes
    All the best

  2. Questions
    I am using something similar tomorrow

    A man ENTERED a field carrying a large heavy package.A few minutes later he is found dead.What killed him?
    Only answer closed questions.You will test also assumptions about the word ENTERED
    Another is to send a volunteer out of the trg room.In their absence decide with others two personal thingsd you all want to know,eg favourite frink or what they had for dinner last night.Person returns and makes a statement- anything.He or she then invites clockwise each person to ask an open question based firstly on the opening statement and then a question on last thing from volunteers mouth.Trick is to isten and keep open questions going


  3. 3 truths and a lie
    Take a flipchart and divide it into 4 quarters. Ask the candidates to put 3 truths and a lie on the sheet at the start of the course as part of the icebreaker.

    When you do the questionning session, re-introduce the flipchart and ask the participants to ask questions of the group to identify which are true and which are lies. It demonstrates the ease it is possible to drop down the questionning funnel and revert to closed questions. In addition, participants tend to ask questions about the individual pieces of data, rather than the individuals who have submitted them – this links nicely with the concept of asking ‘wide’ open questions.

  4. Worksheet Open the Closed
    Another idea I’ve used, though not relating to the dead man in the field, is to give the group a worksheet with closed questions relating to their own work context and ask them to “open” the questions. It’s in a pack written by Jackie Hartley titled “One-to-One Skills for Tutors” Highflyers Publishing
    Good luck!

  5. The monopoly puzzle
    Here’s a similar one.

    A man is pushing a car. He arrives at a hotel and realises he is bankrupt. What’s the story.

    Of course, it’s in a game of monopoly, but it often takes a good few minutes of closed questions before someone hits on the answer. You can then ask how would one open question have solved your puzzle etc.

    Good luck


  6. Puzzles
    I have 20 more of this type of story to test questioning and problem solving skills. E-mail me if you’d like a copy (I may even send you the answers!)
    [email protected]

  7. World Leader

    Does anybody know the puzzle where you have to pick a world leader? You are given three or four descriptions of people and have to pick one.

    The one people pick almost always becomes Adolf Hitler…

  8. man in field
    After reading the query and comments There is one question I need to ask How did he die!!!

    Sorry for the frivolity but it has been a long day.

  9. Parachute
    It failed to open and then he died. It doesn’t say how he entered the field after all.


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