Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Naive Inquirer Model

(Milne, 2009, p. 45)
Have you heard of the "naive inquirer" or "naive enquirer"?

This model is where the practitioner takes the role of an outside observer in conversations with a client, holding judgement back, and listening with an open mind or beginner's mind (Daft, 2008). 

An open mind is where we display child-like curiosity; seeking to exchange information, to know, to find out. We don't look for 'right' or 'wrong' in the answers we receive, we simply explore for exploration's sake (Meaden & Fox, 2015).

Think 'four year old in a lolly shop'. Or Pooh bear:
Benjamin Hoff, in mulling over how Pooh found Eeyore’s lost tail, wrote that: “An Empty sort of mind is valuable for finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what’s in front of it. An Overstuffed mind is unable to. While the clear mind listens to a bird singing, the Stuffed-Full-of-Knowledge-and-Cleverness mind wonders what kind of bird is singing. The more Stuffed Up it is, the less it can hear through its own ears and see through its own eyes. Knowledge and Cleverness tend to concern themselves with the wrong sorts of things, and a mind confused by Knowledge, Cleverness, and Abstract Ideas tends to go chasing off after things that don’t matter, or that don’t even exist, instead of seeing, appreciating, and making use of what is right in front of it.” (1982, pp. 146–147; Daft, 2008, p. 140)
This model is excellent for putting the client at the centre. The client leads as the expert, and the practitioner is the naive inquirer and respectful listener (McMahon & Patton, 2002).  The framework was formalised by Miller and Rollnick (1991) and built on by Padesky in 1993 (Meaden & Fox, 2015). (However, it must be noted that the Miller and Rollnick model is very similar to work by Kuhn's 1966 work (1970). Great minds :-)).

As the professional, we can ask our client obvious questions. We can explore what they have already done, and how useful it was. We can ask what worked and what didn't. We do this just from wanting exchange, not from wanting to put our own construction on it; to 'fix' it. By creating the conversation, we give clients the power to solve their own problems.

It can be a very useful technique for getting people to talk; where we can allow ourselves to not know; to be uncertain; to restart exploration over and over, while remaining clear-eyed. It takes the pressure off the practitioner: we can remain the observer.

We then help the client re-examine problems with a fresh approach, and put aside 'over-stuffedness'.



  • Daft, R. L. (2008). The Leadership Experience (4th ed.). Thomson South-Western.
  • Hoff, B. (1982). The Tao of Pooh. E. P. Dutton.
  • Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (2nd ed.). The University of Chicago Press. 
  • McMahon, M. & Patton, W. (2002). Using qualitative assessment in career counselling. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 2(1), 51-66.
  • Meaden, A. & Fox, A. (2015). Innovations in Psychosocial Interventions for Psychosis: Working with the hard to reach. Routledge.
  • Miller, W. R. & Rollnick, S. P. (1991). Motivational Interviewing: Preparing people for change (2nd ed., 2002). The Guildford Press.
  • Milne, A. A. (1926). Winnie The Pooh. UK: Penguin Group UK Ltd


  1. I was able to find good information from your blog posts.

  2. What's up, just wanted to say, I loved this article.
    It was practical. Keep on posting!

  3. Thanks, Anonymous: glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Thank you for your insight Sam. I've just included a link to this page into my teaching. I'm always encouraging my counselling students to do less. Pooh is just a fabulous example x

    1. Kia ora Nurturing Hope, thank you for your kind words: I hope your students find this useful too :-)


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