Five Tactics to Jumpstart Innovative Ideas

Last month, I was struck by a comment I heard from a senior leader, who noted that in many cases, your effectiveness is tied to the way you ask questions.  She also said that in many cases, you have to practice “muzzle spasm”, that is, ask your question, then be quiet and listen for the answers, rather than answering your own question or issuing your opinion before getting the ideas from your team. Later, I found this article online at Chief Executive magazine.    The authors (Gregersen, Dyer, & Christensen) assert that the way you ask questions of your team can have a big influence on your team’s performance and innovative solutions.   Here are five tactics for disruptive innovative ideas they suggest can help your team’s performance:

  1. Ask “what is” questions: What are we trying to achieve? Where is the real problem? What’s most important?, and What is the real pain point here?
  2. Ask “what caused” questions: This question helps you gain insight into the way things are.  “What caused you to develop this scenario?”, What was the underlying assumptions you used to develop this course of action?,
  3. Ask “Why?” and “Why Not? “ questions:  These types of questions help you discover “what might be”.  “Why don’t they do it this other way? Why aren’t XXX taking advantage of YYY?
  4. Ask  “What if” questions
  5. Track your question to statement ration (Q/A ratio). The authors found that innovative leaders ask far more questions than issue statements.

What kinds of questions do you ask to jumpstart innovative ideas or to promote critical thinking and problem solving?