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This article was written by Hal Gregersen, executive director of MIT's Leadership Center, and was inspired by research and case studies in his new book, "Questions Are the Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to the Most Annoying Problems at Work and in life. "

About 20 years ago I was conducting a session with my brainstorming team and we were very stuck discussing a question many organizations struggle with: how to build a culture of equality in a male dominated environment.

There were a few minutes left before everyone had to leave, we had talked a lot, but the energy level in the room was practically nil.

Looking at the clock, I decided to at least give us a starting point for the next session. I improvised, and tried another approach "let's forget about finding better answers. Let's just write down the best questions we could ask about this problem.

Let's see how many we can generate. ”They began diligently asking dozens of questions. To my amazement, the room quickly rekindled.

Instead of trudging, people were excited, among the scribbled questions were some catalytic questions that profoundly defied assumptions and opened up potential new solutions.

Brainstorming questions , not answers - a process I now call "Question Burst" - something I've never tried before.

Over the years, I've learned that it creates a different kind of space where normal rules and norms are suspended and encourage different behaviors.

This small-scale exercise also convinced me that groundbreaking questions aren't just a product of higher cognitive processes taking place in people's heads.

It is with these settings that we encounter new and surprising questions to help solve our most annoying problems.

I recently did a job I did coaching with the CEO of a worldwide organization.

We started with typical work-related issues, but at some point the discussion took a more personal turn.

The CEO expressed concern about his eldest daughter, who had just turned thirteen. All those years, he had loved his close relationship with his daughter, but as the transition between teenagers became real, he felt her drift away.

We decided to ask a flurry of questions about your concerns. Here are some of the questions we generated in four minutes


Do I listen enough?
Am I putting too much pressure?
What is better at?
Do I recognize him enough?
How is he better than you?
What do her eyes say when she expresses concern?
How can you slow down to see what you are missing out on?
What are your biggest concerns?
How much do you know about her?
Who would be if his surname wasn't yours?
What depends on you?
When do his eyes shine?
What are your areas of independence from me?
What have you recently learned from your experiences?

Her review of the questions later immediately turned into a deep conversation about the role parents play in their children's lives and how parents can pressure as children grow, robbing them of their dreams.

By the end of our conversation he had come up with an approach he felt good about: “He had focused on how not to lose her, but now he realized that the real question was how to sustain her by making her grow and thrive on her own.

From there the emotion took over, making the CEO cry who had understood what was really important for his daughter and not for him.

If you're looking for new insights into solving a problem that interests you, you might want to try the Question Burst exercise.

Select a challenge you care deeply about. Perhaps you have suffered a blockage or have the indistinct feeling of an intriguing opportunity.

How do you know that by solving that problem you will have a breakthrough, you will ask yourself the right unlock question?

Some questions to make you understand better.

In the sentimental sphere

Does it make my heart beat faster?

Does it make me feel happy?

Does it value me?

In the workplace.

Am I too stiff?

Am I taking the right time?

Do I feel fulfilled?


Then, invite a small group to help you consider that challenge from new angles.

Bringing others into the process provides a broader knowledge base and helps maintain a constructive mindset.

Include two or three people who are distinctly different from you in terms of their "internal" understanding of the problem and general world view.

They could also generate interesting questions that you wouldn't ask because they're not part of your status quo.

With your partners reunited, give yourself just two minutes to fix the problem.

Once you have taken the trouble to involve willing helpers, it would be a shame to pollute their minds with your preconceptions before getting any benefit from their thinking.

Before starting the question making process, clearly state two fundamental rules of engagement.

First, ask people to contribute questions only. Explain that those who try to suggest solutions will be eliminated.

Secondly, explain that no short or long explanatory preambles or details are allowed, the focus is on the generation of questions.

Now do a quick emotion check. Are your feelings about the challenge positive, neutral or negative?

Before starting, write down your mood.

You will do this again at the end of the session.

Set a timer and spend the four minutes in collective brainstorming on surprising and provocative questions about the challenge.

No pushback on the contributions of others is allowed.

Write down all the questions that arise from the whole group.

Once the time is up, do another quick emotion check.

Are you more positive than before? If not, try the exercise again, try again the next day, or try it with different people.

Remember that this exercise not only generates valuable new questions, but also provides a positive boost in emotion 85% of the time, increasing the chances of you making progress.

On your own, study the questions you wrote down. Select some that intrigue and strike you and that differ in how you usually approach them.

Some criteria can be helpful when asking questions: is this a question I've never asked myself before? Is it a question that evokes an emotional response, positive or negative?

In other words, take the questions to a surprise test, an honesty test.


Finally, engage in research - the search for at least one new path you have glimpsed - and walk it like a truth seeker.

Put aside the considerations of what might be more comfortable to conclude or easier to implement and instead focus on what it will take to solve the problem.

Develop a short-term action plan: What concrete actions will you personally take over the next three weeks to find potential solutions suggested by your new questions?

Exercise helps people gain energy, reframe problems and discover new solutions to achieve powerful and positive results more than 80% of the time, because it constantly creates a catalytic environment by creating intelligent questions that lead to answers ((solutions) intelligent.

That's it!


Are you ready to enter the game?

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