Brainstorming is an essential process for generating new ideas, solving complex problems, and driving innovation and growth.
However, the effectiveness of a brainstorming session depends largely on the quality of the questions being asked.
Without the right questions, the discussion can become unfocused and unproductive, resulting in missed opportunities and wasted time. That's why building a framework for generating better brainstorming questions is so important.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the key elements of a framework for generating better brainstorming questions and why it's important for achieving successful outcomes in any brainstorming session. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your brainstorming sessions stay on point and generate innovative ideas that drive success for your organization.
How to ask better brainstorming questions
Too often, we surrender to the myth of the water cooler. In reality, it’s not just luck or serendipity that results in great ideas. The key is to build a framework that creates an environment where your brainstorming is focused on the right issues. Here’s how.
Start with the problem
The first step in building a framework for asking better brainstorming questions is to clearly define the problem that needs to be solved. This will help to guide the discussion and ensure that the questions are relevant and focused on the task at hand.
Related: How to Identify the Right Problems to Solve
Identify the objective
Next, it's important to identify the objective of the brainstorming session. Are you looking to generate new ideas, identify the root cause of a problem, or evaluate potential solutions? This will help to determine the types of questions that need to be asked.
Determine the scope
The scope of the brainstorming session will also impact the types of questions that need to be asked. Are you looking at a specific area of the business, or is the scope broader? This will help to identify the relevant stakeholders and ensure that the questions are appropriate.
Use visual aids
Visual aids, such as diagrams, flowcharts, and graphs, can help to stimulate the imagination and encourage creative thinking. These aids can be used to illustrate ideas, identify trends, and explore different scenarios. A shared digital space, like an online whiteboard, can be the best place to bring everyone together, level the playing field, and capture all your ideas and feedback.
25 brainstorming questions to generate better ideas
1. Information-gathering questions
Including information-gathering questions helps to provide context and background that can inform the discussion and generate more focused and relevant ideas. When participants have a better understanding of the problem or topic at hand, they can come up with ideas that are more targeted and effective.
Information-gathering questions can also help to ensure that everyone has a shared understanding of the problem or topic being discussed. This can prevent misunderstandings or assumptions from leading the discussion astray and can help to ensure that all ideas directly pertain to the problem at hand.
Examples of information-gathering questions:
- What is the background of the problem we're trying to solve?
- What data or research do we have on this issue?
- Who are the key stakeholders involved in this problem?
- What has been tried before to solve this problem?
- What are the current market trends or industry best practices related to this problem?
2. Probing questions
Introducing probing questions in a brainstorming session is important because it helps to uncover the root cause of the problem or challenge being discussed. When team members have a better understanding of the underlying issues and factors that are contributing to the problem, they can come up with more effective and targeted solutions.
In addition, probing questions can help to generate more detailed and specific information about the problem or challenge. This information can then be used to generate ideas that are more targeted and effective in addressing the root cause of the problem.
Examples of probing questions:
- What are the underlying causes of this problem?
- What assumptions are we making about this issue?
- What are the consequences of not addressing this problem?
- What are the different perspectives on this issue?
- What are the risks and opportunities associated with solving this problem?
Pro-tip: Use Mural’s problem tree analysis template to help define root causes and examine related effects
3. Problem-solving questions
Including problem-solving questions in a brainstorming session helps to identify potential solutions to the root cause of the problem or challenge being discussed. When participants have a better understanding of the underlying issues and factors that are contributing to the problem, they can generate more effective and targeted solutions.
Problem-solving questions can also help to generate a wide range of ideas and perspectives from participants. By encouraging participants to think creatively and outside the box, problem-solving questions can help to generate new and innovative ideas that may not have been considered before.
In addition, problem-solving questions can help to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of potential solutions.
Examples of problem-solving questions:
- What are some potential solutions to this problem?
- What are the criteria we should use to evaluate potential solutions?
- How can we prioritize potential solutions?
- What are the risks and benefits of each potential solution?
- What resources and support will we need to implement the chosen solution?
4. Refining questions
Refining questions can be used to evaluate the viability of a potential solution by considering factors such as the resources required, the potential impact on stakeholders, and the feasibility of implementation. By asking these types of questions, participants can narrow down the potential solutions and identify the ones that are most likely to be successful.
In addition, refining questions can help to ensure that potential solutions are aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the organization or project. Considering factors such as the strategic priorities, budget constraints, and long-term impact, can help participants identify solutions that are most likely to achieve the desired outcomes.
Examples of refining questions:
- How can we test the viability of the chosen solution?
- What are the potential barriers to implementing the solution, and how can we address them?
- How can we measure the success of the chosen solution?
- What are the resource requirements, including personnel, funding, and technology, for implementing the solution?
- How can we ensure the sustainability of the solution over time?
5. Reflection questions
Reflection questions can help to make sure that participants have a shared understanding of the ideas that have been generated. By summarizing the key ideas and insights, participants can confirm their understanding of the issues and solutions that have been discussed.
Reflection questions are also a means of identifying any gaps or areas that require further exploration. These questions encourage participants to reflect on what they have learned and what they still need to know, ensuring that all relevant information has been considered.
In addition, reflection questions can help to plan next steps and ensure that the ideas generated during the session are acted upon. By considering questions such as what are the next steps? or who will be responsible for implementing these ideas?, participants can begin to develop an action plan for moving forward.
Examples of reflection questions:
- What did we learn from this meeting?
- What were the key takeaways from the discussion?
- Are there any unresolved issues or concerns we need to address?
- How can we ensure alignment and buy-in from all stakeholders?
- What are the next steps and action items to move forward?
Start holding better brainstorming and ideation sessions
To wrap things up, building a framework for better brainstorming questions is vital for productive brainstorming sessions. Through including various types of brainstorming questions, such as information-gathering, probing, problem-solving, refining, and reflection questions, participants can generate a broad range of ideas, assess potential solutions, and plan next steps effectively.
Don't forget that diversity, psychological safety, and structured facilitation are essential for improving the quality of brainstorming sessions.
With Mural, teams can easily share their work with stakeholders and invite unlimited members to collaborate in real-time. Sign up for a Free Forever account today, and enhance the quality of your brainstorming sessions, generate better ideas, and increase speed to innovation for your organization.
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