A major stimulant to creative thinking is focused questions. There is something about a well-worded question that often penetrates to the heart of the matter and triggers new ideas and insights.
Questions Stimulate Creative Thinking
Some of the best questions I’ve found for business problem solving are the following:
Clarify Your Desired Result
Question #1 “What are we trying to do?” Whenever you become frustrated with slow progress for any reason, step back and ask this again and again, “What are we trying to do?”
Analyze Your Current Methods
Question #2 “How are we trying to do it?” If you are experiencing resistance, perhaps your method is wrong. Be willing to objectively analyze your approach by asking, “How are we trying to do it?” Is this the right way? Could there be a better way? What if our method was completely wrong? How else could we approach it?
Could You Be Wrong? It requires courage to face the possibility that you may be wrong but it also leads to your seeing new possibilities. The rule is: Always decide what’s right before worrying about who’s right.
Question Your Assumptions
Another good question is, “What are our assumptions?” About the person, the product, the market, the business? What are our assumptions? Could we be assuming something that is incorrect? Someone once said that “Errant assumptions lie at the root of every failure”.
What if your unspoken or implied assumptions were wrong? What would you have to do differently?
Put Past Decisions on Trial
Another form of focused questioning is what I call “Zero based thinking.” This method requires that you put every past decision on trial for its life regularly by asking, “If I had not made this decision, knowing what I now know, would I make it?” If I had not hired this person or gotten involved in this project, knowing what I now know, would I do it over again?
If the answer is “NO” to one of these questions, then your aim should be to get out of the decision as fast as possible. Be willing to “cut your losses,” and try something else.
Here are two things you can do to trigger more and better ideas.
First, be very clear about exactly what it is that you are trying to do. Write it down and describe it as if it were already achieved.
Second, question your assumptions continually. What if there were a better way? Be willing to try something completely different.