In brainstorming sessions that I normally conduct, creative ideas are generated, compiled and analyzed in groups. The process aims to ignite ideas in the minds of participants based on what ideas others have offered. I consider this as a means of trying to relate how one idea may be applied in different context and interpreted differently based on different experiences. Having participated in and conducted brainstorming sessions, I find this process extremely useful when “creative juices” have to flow.
In this instance, the issue or problem was already fairly well defined and what was needed was merely ideas to be generated to either solve the problem or come up with a different ways of doing something better. This has been used for many years as a knowledge management based approach towards knowledge acquisition and knowledge sharing.
Questionstorming process is almost the same except for one primary difference, instead of ideas, questions are raised to clarify the problem or issue at hand. This is done primarily when the issue or problem is not well defined or is beginning to emerge with no certainty of what it really is.
Questions are asked without discussion and argument and all questions are welcome. These questions are then compiled and analyzed to extend the range of enquiry on the matter in question. So how does this help? If more questions are asked by different people with different experiences and insights, they enable different pathways for probing issues to be discovered. This in part helps the knowledge management process as the participants are better equipped to acquire knowledge based on questions posed.
An executive who attended the questionstorming session remarked that he did not realize how extensive the problem was until he saw the list of questions that were posed by participants. His initial reaction was to discard the questions completely owing to the sheer number of questions. But when he went through the questions one by one, the key theme surrounding the problem emerged and it helped refocus the problem in an entirely different light.
So the message is this – if you don’t know how to deal with an issue let the questions flood in. This will help you unearth how people think around the issue and what really matters to them. In this way, you will not only come closer to solving a problem but also get everyone’s curiosity perched up to a point they want to be involved in resolving it.