Let’s begin with a question: what is Questionstorming? It is very similar to how it sounds. According to a recent article Better Brainstorming by Hal Gregersen in the Harvard Business Review, Questionstorming is based on the concept that “fresh questions often beget novel‒ even transformative‒insights.” To many of us, this makes implicit sense. One of our brightest minds, Albert Einstein, offered a helpful perspective on the questioning frame of mind:
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask…for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
With that in mind, what are some of the best and most useful practices in Questionstorming for results in your business or organization?
Allow questions from everyone, especially the inexperienced
Here is one of the basic tenets of Questionstorming: everyone can ask a good question. You do not have to be an expert in the field to answer a question. In fact, framing a discussion in the form of questions can create a more comfortable environment for all by taking some of the pressure off the participants.
Often, some of the best questions come from the most naive perspective. How could that be? An expert, for better or for worse, often already considers him or herself the most knowledgeable on a subject. This can occasionally result in less creative or inspired approaches. A novice, on the other hand, approaches the issue with less information and less implicit bias. They’ll be able to consider the issue from fresh and insightful angles.
This is also a way to open up discourse in your company to diverse voices and perspectives, to include newer or less experienced employees in creative decision-making, and create a more inclusive work environment for all.
To make for the most rewarding Questionstorming session, make sure to open the floor to new or inexperienced individuals. Allow them a safe space to develop their thought processes, and celebrate any new insights that unfold.
Allow questions to challenge assumptions
In a dynamic workforce, it is necessary to avoid stagnation. Questionstorming can help challenge the assumptions that may form after years of doing business a certain way. Even the most successful companies can benefit from challenging long-held assumptions.
Consider questions asked by a new employee
Consider the most simple of questions, often asked from the perspective of a new employee: “Why do we do it that way?”. What seems like a simple question can be quite complicated. It is disarmingly easy to fall into long-standing processes and accept assumptions as status quo. It can even seem disruptive to allow a stream of questions directed at your tried-and-true practices. Questionstorming allows a company to challenge its assumptions about what is done, and why.
For example, your company that specializes in marketing educational materials to universities. You’ve used well-established venues to market your materials, focusing on the same advertising outlets year after year. A new employee asks, “Why do you do it that way?” If your answer is “because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” then you know that you might need to challenge your assumptions about success. This could lead to a progressive process of working with new digital media sights, increasing your social media outreach, and considering new methods of advertising.
Allow questions to shine a light on the answers
It is not enough to only ask the questions. As a leader and an innovator, you need to be open to implementing these questions. In keeping with this, Gregerson encourages asking questions that are descriptive, complex, and open. If questions are closed-ended or coming from a place of competition or aggression, then they won’t allow everyone in the group to participate in a healthy fashion.
Once you have engaged in a Questionstorming session, don’t walk away feeling overwhelmed by the number of questions. Instead, allow yourself to feel inspired by the potential of the answers. Implement new strategies based on what hasn’t been working. Focus on the complex questions that need to be broken down into several steps. Take notes and plan to revisit questions at the next Questionstorming session to make sure you’ve achieved answers.
At New Perspectives, we’ve recently added Questionstorming to the list of services we offer. Similar to Brainstorming, Questionstorming is generally a day-long facilitated meeting among a cross-functional team of employees and even customers.
We still offer brainstorming facilitation in addition to our other service (boards, blogs, and groups/interviews). Contact marketing research consulting by New Perspectives to find out how Questionstorming might help you and your organization.