How asking questions can help you to become more creative
The moment a question pops up, our brain will get to work instantly. Human beings are hard-wired to generate answers and to dig for possible solutions. That’s why asking questions is such a powerful tool and an essential skill for every creative problem solver. Learn to ask better questions and you will get better ideas…
1. Turn challenges into opportunities
We all regularly encounter things or situations we’d rather get rid of. A colleague who complains too much, old-fashioned regulations, disappointing sales results… you name it.
In these moments it can be comforting to realise that you can do something about almost anything. While there are a lot of things that are out of your control, you are always free to choose how you respond to an ‘unwanted’ situation you’re confronted with.
Asking ‘How can we…?’ questions is a great approach for quick and dirty problemsolving. By formulating your ‘unwanted situation’ into a ‘constructive challenge’ (while keeping your desired outcome in mind), you turn your little everyday frustrations into fruitful opportunities.
E.g. Are you confronted with disappointing sales results? Simply ask yourself: ‘How can we sell more products?’, ‘How can we sell more products to our existing customers?’, ‘How can we make it fun to buy our products?’, ‘How can we make it a fun experience to buy our products?’, ‘How can we make our product irresistible for new clients?’, ‘How can we turn our clients into our ambassadors?’ or ‘How can we use our satisfied customers to attract new customers?’
2. Question your questions
When you have set a challenge for yourself, it’s advisable to take a closer look at your ‘How can we..?’ question. Ask yourself: “Does this question truly cover the most important aspect of my challenge?” Or is there an even more important or urgent matter to be solved?
If you’re not certain, then the 5-Why’s technique can help you uncover the root cause of your problem. Simply ask: ‘Why do I want this?’ and repeat the question with each new answer you get. After five repetitions, you should have uncovered the core of your problem.
E.g. The question ‘How can we sell more products?’ might be too broad. Perhaps the true problem lies in a specific department (‘How can we help department X sell more products?’) or in a specific range of products (‘How might we attract new customers for product X?’).
3. Rephrase your questions
If you’re satisfied with the topic of your question, it’s time to take a closer look at your choice of words. Using another set of words might look trivial, yet it makes a significant difference in the creative process. Language plays a major role in creative thinking. It allows us to establish original connections in our brain and helps us to discover truly original ideas.
E.g. ‘How can we sell more products to our existing customers?’ can also be formulated as; ‘How can we make sure that we get more returning customers?’, ‘How can we make sure that our customers return more often?’, ‘How can we make it attractive for customers to buy more from us?’, ‘How can we make it more engaging for customers to visit us more often?’
As you can see, each question shifts your attention towards something else and can lead to a different route to tackle your challenge.
4. Use your answers to define new challenges
Now that you have developed the perfect ‘How can we…?’ question, it’s time to answer it. Allow yourself to think about your challenge and generate as many ideas as possible. You probably already have some ideas, yet it doesn’t harm to also use some creative thinking techniques to multiply the number of ideas to choose from.
Once you’re happy with your ideas, create a shortlist and analyse your best ideas. Look for the value behind the ideas. Turn your favourite ideas back into ‘How can we..?’ questions.
E.g. ‘How can we sell more products?’ can lead to all sorts of ideas such as;
- Make our products cheaper
- Sell more to our existing customers
- Ask satisfied customers for a referral
‘Sell more to our existing customers’ might help to achieve the objective to sell more products since these clients don’t need to be convinced of the quality you’re offering. This can lead to questions such as; ‘How can we sell more to our satisfied customers?’, ‘What do we need to sell more to our existing clients?’, ‘What’s holding back satisfied clients to buy more from us?’,’How can we convince clients of the quality of our products before they have bought anything?’ etc.
Needless to say, some of the questions above lead to new ideas for sales, while others will simply help you to discover interesting insights on how to improve your existing business.