A well-known pastor once said this: “It takes guts to get out of ruts.”
In truth, it takes more than just guts. It takes inspiration, which is what drives courage and fuels life and new energy. When your team wants to create brain flow or stimulate innovative ideas, asking the right questions and getting others to ask them with you is one way to start.
The Question Formulation Technique
Most people spend a lot of time worrying about giving the right answers.
But an answer can only be as powerful as the question it addresses. If you work with teams, one of your goals should be to draw on each person’s unique strengths and creativity. But this can be a challenge if you can’t get the ball rolling.
If you want to try a different launch point for your next creative gathering, consider the Question Formulation Technique (originally formulated by the Right Question Institute). Here’s how it works:
Design a Question Focus
Pick a problem or challenge that is important to you. It should be clear and stimulate new lines of thinking. It should not be a question.
Start by setting a time limit of around 5-15 minutes. Agree on this ahead of time and set a list of parameters before brainstorming begins. Brainstorming rules could include:
- Encouraging people to ask as many questions as possible
- Refraining from stopping green light thinking to answer, judge, or to discuss the questions posed
- Asking everyone to submit at least three questions
- Writing down every question exactly as it is stated
Now it’s go-time.
Use your question focus to formulate as many questions as you can. Aim for 50 questions in 15 minutes to give your team a brain jolt.
Once you have a list of questions, the next step is to try to improve them.
For example, you could change yes/no questions into open-ended phrases. You could modify a generic question by adding specifics (changing “how can we preserve heat loss in drafty spaces?” to “how can we increase heat efficiency by 20 percent?”)
After brainstorming, your list will seem a bit jumbled.
Drill down by sorting questions into common themes then prioritizing the most critical areas. Choose 3-4 categories with the most potential and rank them by importance.
Now ideas can take flight.
After ranking your categories, decide what you need to do next to generate creative solutions. Do you hand off a concept to a design team? Work with a consultant to flush out possibilities? Maybe you want to take the top-ranking question and have another “question-storming” session to flush out specifics for this concept.
Reflect and Reframe
Before closing your session, reflect on what your group learned and how you might assimilate these insights into your work. This may uncover hidden assumptions or reframe the way your team approaches its next obstacle. And give positive feedback on the discussion that just happened.
Teaching people to ask questions and partner in decision-making can fundamentally change the synergy of your team!