Using Technology to Solicit Discussion Questions

By Dave Bayless

Good questions catalyze great conversations. That said, identifying, storing, recalling, and selecting good discussion questions and then convening the right people to discuss them at the right time aren’t trivial tasks. We’re using AI-enabled and no-code tools such as Fireflies.ai, Airtable, Softr, Mighty Networks, and Zapier to help us.

The Cycle of Conversation

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Good questions catalyze great conversations, which trigger more good questions.

 

The Cycle of Conversation

The idea is straightforward:

  • Elicit “high gain” questions from your community members.
  • Figure out how to convene the right people at the right time.
  • Facilitate a discussion.
  • Identify, remember, recall, and select additional questions to discuss in the future.

It’s easier said than done. It’s easy to agree to “put a pin” in a question for conversation later…and then forget. Furthermore, the value of a conversation is related to its timeliness. How many times have you thought, “I wish I’d had this conversation six months ago!”

We’re experimenting with several tools to help us solicit, remember, select, and present the right questions at the right time.

Capturing, Sharing, and Selecting Discussion Questions

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It’s not always easy to come up with a good question on the spot. More often than not, really stimulating questions emerge from the back-and-forth of a good conversation. Furthermore, the quality of a question raised in conversation isn’t always immediately apparent. Really attentive note taking helps but can be a real burden. Meeting tools such as Fireflies.ai can help.

Once captured, potential discussion questions need to be remembered and shared with the community. Our default tool for this purpose is Airtable, a no-code database.

To ensure a timely conversation, the right question must be selected at the right time. We’re experimenting with using Mighty Networks polls to allow members to choose the most relevant questions from a curated list.

On-demand Conversations

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In an effort to ensure timely conversations, we created the On-demand Conversations application and process consisting of the following steps:

  • Select an interesting discussion question from those raised by members of the community.
  • Identify a domain expert and engage her in a brief interview. The purpose of the interview is not to definitively answer the question. The purpose of the mini-interview is to frame the conversation and stimulate interest.
  • Invite participation.
  • Engage in conversation.
  • Feed a summary of highlights back into the community.

The process is largely automated, which makes it easy for us as hosts and facilitators. We created the application using a front-end built using Softr, a back-end using Airtable, and Zapier automation. So far, the results have been very encouraging.