What if your problem just needed a new question?

A creative technique to challenge your assumptions.

Diana Lillicrap 11.6.18

We often talk about the importance of asking the right question to uncover the right answers. But what if we asked the unexpected question, the hard question, or the bizarre question instead? What if…?

Here’s a brainstorming method that starts with an open-ended question to challenge your assumptions and push you to think outside of the basic information you might expect to ask about a project or problem. Here’s how it works.

The questioning phase

Start by generating a list of questions about your project or problem that all start with the statement, “What if…” For example:

What if it had to make people laugh?

What if it had to be delivered digitally?

What if it had to be done on a billboard?

What if this problem was happening 50 years ago?

What if our audience had to use our product daily?

What if we could make our product magical, what would it do?

What if we had to deliver an answer to the CEO tomorrow?

What if we had to explain it to a child?

The answering phase

Once you’ve come up with as many creative What if questions as you can to challenge your normal expectations around solving your problem, you’re ready for the next step. Go back through your list and work with your team or alone to come up with 3 – 5 answers for each questions. Remember, there’s no wrong answers when you’ve changed your assumptions. The sky’s the limit so go ahead and get crazy. Quantity is more important than quality.

Go through the exercise as many times as you need to break out of your normal thought process. Once you have a list of dozens of ideas, evaluate them for what’s both fresh and feasible. You’ll likely find a few gems that spark a new approach to solve your problem.

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