The Socratic Method is commonly used to stimulate inquiry and debate in university courses ranging from law schools to business schools to philosophy courses. This dialectical method is structured as a discussion to resolve the apparent tension between opposing views. A thesis is offered and then questioned (the antithesis). Critical thought is applied to arrive at the synthesis – a resolution is provided rather than a compromise. New ideas are formed. Learning takes place. We evolve.
Socrates, it is said, relentlessly questioned his students on various topics. When the student approached some resolution (an answer), Socrates would change the direction of the questions. This apparent madness was not meant to confuse the student. It was intended to demonstrate that arriving at an answer is the end of learning.
Most of us have learned to muzzle our inner Socrates; that part of us that questions the answers, that questions the status quo. Do we question our automatic reactions to life situations? Do we question the same answers we have provided to ourselves and to others? Do we question the same habitual questions that we ask over and over? Do we challenge our thoughts and our feelings with inquiry to discover root causes? Do we, as individuals, learn and evolve? Or, do we accept pre-programmed answers?
When we invoke our inner Socrates to question our inner habits, we learn. When we invoke our inner Socrates to debate the apparent dialectics in our minds (life-death, good-evil, success-failure, right-wrong) ,we evolve.
This inner Socratic inquiry is the foundation for growing self-awareness.
It is the primal practice for the lifelong pursuit of potential. It is the fundamental, ongoing lifelong practice of leadership.