Marco Serrato: The Power of Inquiry in Executive Development

Marco Serrato: The Power of Inquiry in Executive Development

The power of inquiry in Executive Development

Rushing to answers when the world is changing around us at a rapid pace is a shortsighted strategy at best. The answer that worked yesterday is unlikely to be correct tomorrow. Even more, it is simply unrealistic to expect to know everything that comes our way when we are facing an uncertain and volatile environment. So, we have to be able to ask the right questions and learn, specially under the current landscape that our institutions and ourselves face.

All of this is of special importance while thinking of new research topics and questions to be considered by UNICON’s Research Committee. In order to define relevant projects and initiatives towards 2020, our member institutions can – and should – take advantage of the opportunity to reach out to this committee and suggest topics and questions that are relevant for them and the university-based executive education industry.

What questions would you or your institution want to answer? By asking questions, we make it easier for others to help us. Otherwise, and as it happens nowadays within some corporations worldwide, an availability bias may take place when we make decisions according to the insights and information that is most readily available to us rather than on more-complete information. We too quickly may assume that we understand a situation given the information that surrounds us. As Mark Twain said, ‘Supposing is good, but finding out is better.’ Such availability bias is sometimes prevalent because we don’t have the time to go out and collect unlimited information on every topic that comes our way. But it is precisely at such moment that the value of being a UNICON member arises.

Among the different characteristics that differentiate UNICON, I usually take pride on the diversity of ideas, opinions and backgrounds that characterize our member institutions and their prime representatives. I see UNICON as an organization that encourages dialogue, analysis and collaboration through the conferences, initiatives and projects that the consortium conducts. We look at problems faced by our institutions, and we look at them from different angles while reframing questions, analyzing data and information, and questioning accepted models. And we execute all of this while aiming for improvement, excellence and growth of our own institutions and the university-based executive education industry while being part of it.

If the executive development world were static, acting without questioning would be perfectly reasonable. But we know that is not the case, so we need to think about how to overcome the inclination to rush to answers. Even more, and in addition to an availability bias, a confirmation bias may also take place while trying to confirm our existing beliefs and limit ourselves from new sources of information to expand our learning.

I look forward to hear about potential topics and research questions that our member institutions and prime representatives may share with our Research Committee in the upcoming weeks. We would strongly appreciate if you take some time to share such ideas and enrich the content and value created through the research projects to be conducted next year!


Marco Serrato, Ph.D.
UNICON 2019-2020 Board Chair
Associate Provost, The University of Chicago


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