To Boost Creative Thinking, Ask This Question

December 6, 2012

Recently I posted one design thinking tip from Change By DesignOnce a Day, Deeply Observe the Ordinary. Here's another:

Don't Ask "What?" Ask "Why?" Instead of accepting a given constraint, ask whether this is the right problem to be solving.

Every parent knows how infuriating 5-year-olds can be with their constantly questioning "Why?" But for design thinkers, asking "Why?" is an opportunity to reframe a problem, redefine the constraints, and open the field to a more innovative answer.

For example Will Work For, the design provocation I wrote about earlier this week, questions the core motivations for why we work.

There is nothing more frustrating than coming up with the right answer to the wrong question. This is true whether you're designing a new company strategy or designing the next week of your life.

A willingness to ask "Why?" will annoy your colleagues in the short run, but in the long run it will improve your chances of spending energy on the right problems.

What will you ask "Why?" about this week?

(Photo from Thoughtless Acts by Jane Fulton Suri / Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)