Bullying with Questions

Bullying with Questions

How can you help yourself and others learn and grow?

The typical approach is to sign up for expensive courses or workshops. Or to sit by yourself with a good book and a lot of energy drinks and hope to learn something when you’re done.

Instead, I found a different way to do this with little time and effort.

With one of our new developers, I started a practice of asking him questions throughout the day. In no time at all, this practice became a company-wide program that we lovingly call “Bullying with Questions.”

My Motivation

In the software business you often find your technical knowledge is limited compared to others. There’s always someone who knows more than you do about a subject.

It happens to me all the time.

If I say, “did you know this algorithm is the best thing?” there’s always someone else saying “dude, that’s so 2002!”

After this kind of humiliation, I usually plunk down in front of Wikipedia, trying to understand at least what he meant. After a couple of hours, I cannot help but think, “I really do suck at algorithms.”

However, I found that other people have the same experience, just like me.

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Recently, I was talking with a new developer. Let’s call him Joe. After we talked for a bit, Joe said, “man, you know more about these things than I do. Where did you learn that?”

After my victory pose (I really did it), I got an idea of how to help him learn more about “these things” quickly.

There’s Always Someone Who Knows More than You Do. ALWAYS!

So I told Joe, “How about if I ask you anything at any time during the day? It would be like surprise quizzes!” He agreed and we started with basic questions in the kitchen, then a few more while we were walking out. Later, I asked him a difficult question in the living room. This continued throughout the day.

After every question, I gave him extended feedback: what he got right, what he missed, how long it took him to respond, etc.

With Others’ Help You Can Start Something Positive for Everyone

I started to ask others for more questions. After I explained to them what I was doing with Joe, they asked to be part of it, too. In a week we had more than ten mentors and two mentees asking and answering questions throughout the day.

And, just like that, the Bullying with Questions program was born.

Good Actions Will Inspire Others to Do the Same

Soon the news spread to our other offices and we started to do it there, too.

We were helping others in our spare time and having a significant impact with minimum of effort.

This program breaks the school-like paradigm of limited classes with one teacher. Instead it becomes an everyday activity with multiple people mentors, adding to the depth and breadth of the knowledge gained.

Within a month or so the mentees even surprised our clients with what they had learned.

Fortunately in a company like Nearsoft, there are a lot of good talented people eager to help.

“Bullying” with Questions

So this is what we know so far,

It is a good challenge for the mentors to come up with questions every day.

People will want to be part of something positive if they can see the results.

This will help you relate to others that may know more or less than you do.

Listening to others’ questions help you learn and grow, too.
With the help of others in the team, this doesn’t cost anything. There’s is no way a manager will say no to a proposal like this.
You’ll learn to give professional feedback, how to ask and how to respond.

Compound learning: If you got ten mentors asking you questions, you will learn to look at things from ten different angles.

Finally…

For all involved, there are many ways to contribute and benefit from a program like this.

People will reach out to you to give you more ideas to improve yours.
As I said, this works in a company like Nearsoft whose values support this kind of initiatives. There should be a way to do the same in other environment.

For questions or feedback, contact me [email protected].

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