Are There Any Questions? How Socrates Became the Most Annoying Man Alive


The case discusses the ancient figure of Socrates and describes his style of questioning others’ assumptions. Readers are invited to consider whether allowing a role for questions in the style of Socrates is useful in organizations. On the one hand, questioning of initial basic assumptions may expose inconsistencies or incoherence. This exposure could help to develop answers to potentially difficult questions about the true values or purpose of an organization. It could also, potentially, prevent future problems such as corporate scandals. Scandals can occur if company employees—especially those in top management—do not have a reasonable grasp on what “doing business in an ethical manner” means, for instance. Or it could reveal that some of our definitions for complex terms are very shallow and incomplete. On the other hand, perhaps it is impossible to accomplish even the simplest task if every first principle is called into doubt. Students may like to think about the balance between rigorous questioning of assumptions and the need to get things done.

This case was prepared for inclusion in SAGE Business Cases primarily as a basis for classroom discussion or self-study, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management styles. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an endorsement of any kind. This case is for scholarly, educational, or personal use only within your university, and cannot be forwarded outside the university or used for other commercial purposes.

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