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  • Writer's pictureBarb Bickford

Humans beat chatbot, 59 to 5

Updated: May 2

A cartoon of a woman interacting with a chatbot, asking "In what ways do questions improve your meetings?"

This week, I invited some friendly folks* to think of as many ways as possible to use questions in meetings.

The precise question was: "In what ways do questions improve your meetings?"

The human-generated list is below. The numbers in ( )'s indicate how many times a particular way was mentioned.

Questions improve meetings by....

  1. ...encouraging diverse perspectives, imagination, ideas or creative thinking (16)

  2. ...encouraging reflection (7)

  3. ...clarifying or framing the purpose of the meeting (6)

  4. ...encouraging or increasing participation, engagement, or interaction (5)

  5. ...challenging or breaking down assumptions or uncovering blindspots (5)

  6. ...identifying, exploring or generating alternatives or solutions (5)

  7. ...promoting dialogue, leading into an activity or starting a conversation (5)

  8. ...inviting or engaging curiosity (4)

  9. ...fostering change or innovation (4)

  10. ...uncovering possibilities or inviting brainstorming (4)

  11. ...helping people to get to know each other (4)

  12. ...improving processes, efficiency, effectiveness (4)

  13. ...connecting people and building relationships (3)

  14. ...provoking or challenging people (3)

  15. ...inviting or promoting listening (3)

  16. ...validating, verifying or affirming a point (3)

  17. ...activating attention or focus (3)

  18. ...clarifying or checking for understanding (2)

  19. ...helping to organize themes (2)

  20. ...providing insights (2)

  21. ...helping prioritize things (2)

  22. ...creating consensus or alignment on decisions (2)

  23. ...deepening connection to material covered (2)

  24. ...helping people have fun or injecting humor (2)

  25. ...framing or reframing issues or challenges (2)

  26. ...guiding conversations (2)

  27. ...enabling people to check in

  28. ...avoiding wasting time

  29. ...breaking up monotony

  30. ...testing ideas

  31. ...changing the pace of a meeting

  32. ...getting to the root of why we're meeting in the first place

  33. ...building relational safety

  34. ...adding focus

  35. ...inviting feedback

  36. ...identifying direction

  37. ...revealing lack of alignment

  38. ...helping people to verbalize problems

  39. ...promoting innovation

  40. ...helping with understanding context

  41. ...putting people in a particular state of mind

  42. ...checking for understanding

  43. ...empowering people to be both teachers and students

  44. ...challenging authority or orthodoxy

  45. ...revealing what people want to know about a person or topic

  46. ...revealing the audience's foundational knowledge

  47. ...collecting knowledge

  48. ...revealing the statement behind the question

  49. ...determining next steps

  50. ...getting dimensions of problems before crafting solutions

  51. ...encouraging consideration of alternatives

  52. ...fostering creativity

  53. ...finding out who is motivated to do what

  54. ...getting at root causes

  55. ...meeting others meaningfully

  56. ...diffusing combat

  57. ...spuring action or implementation

  58. ...indicating curiosity or interest

  59. ...checking on people's welfare

Now, it's true that some might consolidate the single ideas suggested above into fewer groups. The number of groups would depend on whether you are a "lumper" or a "splitter." (This is something my college paleontology prof often pointed out when we sorted fossils.) However, the humans would still have more ideas than ChatGPT suggested when I asked it the same question, "In what ways do questions improve your meetings?" Here is ChatGPT's answer:

Overall, asking questions is an effective way to engage participants, generate ideas, clarify information, create dialogue, and keep meetings on track. It is an essential skill for meeting facilitators to master, as it can lead to more productive and effective meetings.” (Amen to that)

In fairness, humans have advantages over Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT. Humans have curiosity. They have life experience to draw on. They think. They understand language.

AI chatbots do not "think." They do not even "understand." They search for the next most probable word based on the databases on which they are trained. At some point, our human-generated list could become part of ChatGPT's database.

But, for now, the humans won, 59 ideas to 5.

** ** **

* The meeting was the Washington DC Liberating Structures Community of Practice. If you are new to Liberating Structures, check it out! Come and see how these easy to learn activities can help your group work better together! We meet online the second Wednesday of the month. All are welcome!

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