Question brainstorming is a relatively new technique that’s rapidly gaining favour with everyone from writers to business owners – and everyone else who needs to come up with great ideas fast.
The best thing about question brainstorming is that a typical session generally produces twice as many ideas as the more common “what are the answers” method that most of us are familiar with.
Regular brainstorming has its place, since it forces you to think about the problem from many different angles that you might not have thought of otherwise. But the drawback is that you have to come up with the answers – or things that might later become answers – right there and then in the brainstorming session itself. That slows things down, and leads to many ideas being rejected before they even leave your head.
Unfortunately those off-the-wall ideas that never make it onto the list are often the most innovative and groundbreaking ones, that could potentially have a massive impact on your business, book, article, or whatever it may be.
So traditional brainstorming can lead to the same old tried-and-tested (i.e. tired) responses, because then nobody has to worry about upsetting anyone or looking stupid. This applies even if you’re brainstorming on your own: you’ll be extremely reluctant to write down some of the more outrageous ideas you come up with. You’ll prejudge them and dismiss them almost instantly, without further consideration.
It takes a strong person to write down something that they know is “stupid” – even if no one else will ever see it.
Question brainstorming simply asks you to think of as many questions as you can about the idea or concept under discussion, without worrying about what the answers might be. Since you don’t have to think the problem through all the way to a potential solution, or worry about how stupid the answer might be, the whole process speeds up – you just have to list the all questions you can come up with.
You’ll not only list a lot more questions in the time available, but the responses will be far less inhibited. You aren’t forced to think through your answers, worry about their relevance, consider their impact on your business, or how “stupid” they might be. So now those off-the-wall ideas do actually make it onto the list for further consideration.
You’ll also get questions where there are no answers, or where the answers are currently unknown. This might prompt a fiction writer, for example, to invent his own solution and be praised for his vision. Or it might prompt a scientist to try a different approach that leads to an important new discovery – the possibilities are endless. But you probably wouldn’t have gotten many of those ideas using regular brainstorming – they simply wouldn’t have made it onto the list.
You might also get questions where you (or the other participants) might know or suspect what the answer might be, but wouldn’t dare say it – especially if the boss is present. By forming it into a question, it makes it onto the list and becomes available for further discussion, when it wouldn’t have done otherwise.
At the end of the session – or even better, a later session – you can evaluate your huge number of responses. As with regular brainstorming, you can do this by yourself, or individually if there are several of you, or as a group. You just have to decide which are the best questions. You still don’t need to think about what the answers might be at this stage. That’s a job for another time – and perhaps even a different group of people.
The best writers, managers, inventors, scientists, politicians, and creative and innovative people from all walks of life, are often not those who have the best answers, but those who can ask the best questions.
So give question brainstorming a try, double your productivity – and show the world how innovative you can be!
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Dave Haslett is the founder of ideas4writers.co.uk (the ideas and inspiration website), and i4w2.co.uk (the award-winning ethical publishing service for the UK). Be sure to check out Dave’s book “The Fastest Way to Write Your Book” available in paperback or e-book editions — By learning the fastest ways to plan, write, edit and sell your books, you can knock months off the “traditional” methods, easily fit writing around your other tasks, fill gaps in the market as soon as you spot them, beat your competitors into print, demonstrate your expertise, generate more business, boost your career prospects, and make a lot more money! Read the first two chapters online for free here: http://www.ideas4writers.co.uk/books/fwwb.php
Dave Haslett, ideas4writers, www.ideas4writers.co.uk