Asking powerful questions can be a highly effective method for enhancing group discovery and creative problem solving. The right question, asked at the appropriate moment, can transform the unknown into new understanding, simplify complex issues, stimulate leaps in imagination, shift a group out of the doldrums, and quickly refocus efforts that have veered off onto unproductive tangents.
Effective questions are typically simple, concise, and easy to understand; they are also intentionally provocative to prompt a group to think, imagine, reflect, and challenge any pre-existing assumptions, beliefs, and conventional thinking.
Here are twenty-five effective creative problem solving questions you can ask when tackling virtually any challenge. Questions like these will help you stimulate your group’s imagination, and allow them to generate a wider range of fresh, innovative ideas.
“What is the simplest, most obvious solution to this challenge?”
“What are three other ways to approach this challenge?”
“If all limitations were removed, what could we do?”
“If we knew we couldn’t fail, what would we try?”
“Let’s quickly free-associate all the things that __(subject)__ reminds us of.”
“What else is similar to/different from this?”
“What is the most audacious thing we can do, say, or imagine?”
“What would Apple, Google, or Nike do in this situation?”
“What haven’t we considered yet?”
“What’s the single most important thing to focus on here?”
“What are some radically new or different ways to approach this challenge?”
“What idea(s) can we push even further?”
“What possibilities have we missed or not considered yet?”
“What if we…?”
“What can we simplify, combine, reverse, modify, or eliminate?”
“If we dug deeper, what would we discover?”
“How would a five-year-old solve this challenge?”
“What opportunities haven’t we recognized or taken advantage of yet?”
“Where is there an unmet need we can fulfill?”
“How would they solve this challenge fifty years in the future?”
“What are some of the worst ideas we can think of?” (Pause for answers, then ask…) “How can we reverse them to find the seeds of a good idea?”
“How can we take this wild idea and make it more practical?”
“What do our customers really want, need, or desire?”
“What would an insanely great idea or solution look like?”
“In what ways can we turn this challenge into a golden opportunity?”
Tip: Create a “cheat sheet” of great questions
If you prepare a list of provocative, “ready-to-go” questions before your next meeting or brainstorm session, you can significantly improve your leadership performance. A questioning “cheat sheet” will not only provide you with greater peace of mind, but also help keep the momentum of your meeting or session flowing in a positive direction. With a series of prepared questions at the ready, you will never be at a loss for a question to ask.
Excerpt from the book, SmartStorming: The Game-Changing Process for Generating Bigger, Better Ideas.