Brainstorming has earned a difficult image recently, and sometimes this is justified. Gather a group of people together, tell them to come up with new and awesome ideas, and you can pretty much guarantee that the one thing that won’t happen will be the generation of new and awesome ideas.

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What can you do?

It may seem counterintuitive at best, but many groups find it much easier to generate questions than ideas. It’s an approach being advocated by many leading companies and organisations including Microsoft, MIT and others. The principle behind this is that imagining questions about a topic can help your team to better examine that topic and the issues and ideas surrounding it in detail – often more effectively than a traditional brainstorming exercise would enable them to do.

How does it work?

You can apply the basic principle of so-called “question storming” by following a five-step process:

1. Create a focus for your questions. This will usually be the challenge, development or issue that you and your team are attempting to deal with. If you are, for example, attempting to create a website for a county council,

  1. Next, imagine your questions. Groups of four to six people work best for this, with one person scribing and ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard. The idea is to generate as many questions around the focus as possible.
  2. Once you have your questions, groups should then work to review and improve their focus. To revisit our example of designing a website, a Drupal design agency such as might look at questions about the use cases of sites they are designing and the potential audiences they may serve.
  3. Prioritisation. This will help you to ensure that you don’t waste time and focus on examining the key questions. Each group may decide on the questions they believe are the most important before the team shares their ideas and a vote or ballot is held to determine the overall agreed priorities.
  4. Use the priority questions to decide your next steps and carry them out. Now you are all set to come up with the best approach for your web design needs.

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