Prince Philip should have fished, not shot, when questioning the Apollo astronauts.
There is a powerful scene in The Crown in which Prince Philip gets an opportunity to meet the three American astronauts who had returned to earth after landing on the moon.
Armstrong, Aldrin and Conrad had been summoned for a private conversation with the Prince as a kind of break-out session from a royal reception at Buckingham Palace.
Although Philip is clearly in awe of the three young men, they are perhaps more in awe of their surroundings.
Their eyes are wide as they survey the room and its palatial design.
It’s almost as if they are gazing at Planet Earth from a porthole window in Apollo 11.
In spite of their royal host’s invitation to spread out, they huddle together on a gilt-framed sofa, whereupon they are engaged in what can only be described as an interview.
Clearly, Prince Philip is desperate to hear how, as they traveled through space, they came to terms with their humanity.
Struggling to mentally define his own place in the world, he was assuming his heroes would impart some profound, philosophical statements that would articulate an answer to life’s biggest questions.
However, it transpired that they were too busy doing NASA duties to have any time for that kind of pondering.
Repeatedly, the prince reframes his deep questions.
And repeatedly they fail to answer them.
In fact, they appear as lightweights in the emotional intelligence stakes.
One of them has a sneezing fit, which seems to contribute to their disappointing performance.
Now, it’s quite possible that the astronauts simply took a pride in doing their job, as they made history on the Moon.
Or that they simply were too busy to care about their place in the universe, whether there is a god, and so on.
However, I rather think that they were asked the wrong question in order to get them to open up.
In the world of facilitation — and facilitating LEGO® Serious Play® in particular — it is an easy trap to fall into.
All too often, we ask a question, making an assumption that it is the right one.
As if all we need to do is ask it, in order to elicit a response that will give us the answer we need.
When we ask a question like this — I call it a ‘shooting question’ — we are making it clear what kind of answer we want.
And sometimes that simply doesn’t work.
With the astronauts in mind, a series of ‘fishing questions’ might have been better.
Questions that swim around the subject, containing bait that might get a bite.
Fishing questions are difficult to design because you have to say to yourself, ‘If I want them to talk about X or Y, what kind of question would I need to ask to get them to open up?’
If you want to get a true answer and an authentic response, you have to create an environment in which the person you are questioning feels comfortable to explain themselves in their way, not yours.
Otherwise, your question will be an investment in your future disappointment.