You have a great brainstorming going, ideas everywhere, so many good new initatives. But 30 min into the session the ideas stop coming. The before so lively group has fallen silent, feeling taped from creativity. Chances are you’ve been in a similar situation..

Although taking a break and looking at things from another perspective is a great way to refresh your mind, sometimes this is not enough. So let’s look at a cure for a continuously creative team. A little hint; the secret is in the questions you ask…

Read on and find out how you can use our idea management platform to benefit your team when working with new ideas and concepts.

Dig deeper

Oftentimes, the known answers lie at the surface and block the way for new bright opportunities to see the light of day in your brainstorming sessions. This makes bringing up entirely new opportunities a difficult task. And you need to structure your questions accordingly.

In order to organize our thinking around the unexplored, you need to ask the right questions. A simple way to start the process is to encourage a cause-and-effect thought flow. The word ‘why’ is a great catalyst for exploring different ideas. But here’s the catch – you will be able to drill down to the root of the problem only through a series of such inquiries. These are called ‘funneling questions’ and allow you to challenge assumptions and understand how an answer was derived.

The idea here is to move from the apparent, skin-deep conclusions to more valuable insights. So next time, try asking ‘why’ at least three times consecutively. Whilst you are at it, make sure to use an idea management platform to map down your answers and observations. This way, you can always go back and revise on your previous reasonings.

Make challenging missions for your idea management platform

There are numerous turning points in history in which a dazzling individual took a popularly held belief and completely modified it by asking a different question. Einstein wondered about space and time. His answers led to the observation that the speed of light is constantly changed the way we perceive the universe. Similarly, Newton’s curiosity about ‘what causes objects to move?’ led to the introduction of the Laws of Motion. These examples only prove that great breakthroughs start with an innovator that is daring enough to ask the right questions and challenge what others take for granted.

Unfortunately, it is common to find yourself too immersed in an immediate problem which makes it almost impossible to see the bigger picture. In other words, we are often stuck going over what color the button on the new update should be, rather than asking ourselves if this product is really needed or if it should be replaced.

In this situation, elevating questions can take you to a higher playing field where new connections can be made. These inquiries help you reevaluate. Are you even addressing the right issue? How does it all tie together? Effective teams make use of an idea management platform through which they constantly explore and improve observations before turning them into quality insights.

Know your purpose

Here’s the deal: An answer is only as good as the question asked. In other words, the way you make an inquiry will shape the ideas you receive. With this in mind, settle on the kind of ideas you wish for – are you looking for the new iPhone or a way to reduce the number of trash cans in the office? This is an important choice, that will help you succeed in the long-run.

There are situations where a very specific sort of answer is needed. In this case, all you have to do is simply increase the specificity of the question and the range of possible outcomes will narrow. Specific questions can be tricky to formulate because they are so elaborate, be sure to plan accordingly and keep it relevant in order to drive the value you are seeking. Usually, it is better to craft your questions so that each covers a single point. If you want to know two different things, ask two different questions. Be aware that there is a thin line between over asking and being specific.

You might be looking for unusual, blue-sky ideas. To expand the range of exciting answers you need to formulate provocative questions. The easy approach is to focus on a topic with a deliberate dose of vagueness. Now, the challenge is to be able to filter out the workable ideas with a lot of potential from the whole heap of crazy ones. Don’t be quick to turn them down. Assumptions tend to mix in pretty quick and lure you away from accessing unexpected opportunities. To make the process easier, make sure you stay organized by using an idea management platform like Ideanote.

Learn by asking

When Steve Jobs started to build the iPod, he defined a clear product vision in the simple words of ‘1,000 songs in my pocket’. By doing so, he outlined not only the technical challenges, but also the general approach. This example highlights the importance of correctly evaluating the problem. It will affect the entire innovation strategy. Why does this matter? Reframing the question from one that limits the challenge into one that broadens it, makes the issue something you can tackle more easily.

In order to innovate, a question with more than one good answer is needed. Inspire the way your team ideates and always ask open-ended questions. These encourage people to start discussing a topic in detail and provide elaborate feedback. Most likely, it will also help you shrink the size of the dreaded “what I don’t know, I don’t know” area, revealing your blindspots.

To get the most out of it, make sure you debunk the myth of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ answers. A true culture of inquiry embraces all perspectives and is not terribly uncomfortable with ‘dead air’. In other words, the atmosphere should not get heavy when things get quiet. Some like to fill the space with chatter, whilst others keep their mouth shut and ears open. Either way, time is not lost as long as everyone is focused on solving the issue at hand. Great ideas come when you least expect them.

Bottom line

In today’s world, there’s always a rush to answer. Our unlimited access to information and rapidly changing businesses are accentuating this sense of urgency. Take a step back and evaluate the goals you are trying to achieve. Practice the art of inquiry and ask the right questions. Write them down on your Ideanote space. Don’t shut people off by simply telling them what they need to know. Instead build relationships based on curiosity. Invite your co-workers to answer and make the right decisions together. Because with every great question there comes an even greater idea.

Can’t get enough innovation related posts? Why not check out; Evaluate Ideas easier with Ideanote or what about 59 insanely actionable innovation resources, to help you take your innovation to the next level?