The power of questioning everything.
If you’re finding yourself completely stuck in your creative problem-solving process, it might be time to shift your focus from solutions to questions.
Brains often get stuck in a cycle of confirmation bias—constantly looking for information or solutions that already fit within known experiences or belief systems—when the best solution might actually be outside of what’s already known. To combat this cycle, step out of your comfort zone and ask questions.
Asking questions leads to better results, whether you’re trying to expand the reach of your nonprofit or help your team meet a tight deadline.
Asking any question is a start, but asking the right questions is key.
Begin with short, simple questions and build on them to work through a problem. Much like a toddler asking “why” over and over, you’re digging deeper with each question (although we—and parents around the world—would encourage you to expand beyond a simple “why”). The deeper you go, the more opportunities and information you find, leading you down new, interesting paths.
Challenging what you already know leads to great information as well. If you know something works, ask, “Why is this the right creative approach?” and, “How could this be more effective?” Getting down to the core of defending creative decisions helps you challenge solutions around proven methods.
Intentionally phrasing your questions is important, too, because the way you ask questions changes the answers you’ll get. For example, “How can I get more customers?” will get you a very different answer than asking, “Where can I reach my target market?” Both questions help you advance your business, but be specific. Think about your goals and make sure the questions you’re asking directly relates to them.
As a leader, you need to observe your team and ask questions to gather information. Instead of simply giving your team a deadline, ask questions such as, “How can I support you?” “What’s standing in our way?” “What’s the most effective workflow for this project?” Working through these potential roadblocks together saves you headaches—and misaligned expectations—down the road.
Unfortunately, there are some bad questions. This is not the time to doubt yourself (“Why can’t I figure this out?” “Will I lose this opportunity?”) or close yourself off from possibilities (“That’s too out-there, what else could we do instead?”). Creating a safe space for free thinking and not dismissing obscure ideas while maintaining a positive attitude is crucial.
When in doubt, let curiosity lead the way and question everything.