5 ideation questions to kick-start a workshop

Asking questions, especially good ones is a hard skill to master. Anyone who has interviewed someone, been part of a panel discussion, or gone on a date knows that a poorly phrased or seemingly boring question can end a conversation fast.


When we are ideating or brainstorming, beginning with powerful questions is everything. I’m sure we’ve all been in workshops, ideation sessions, or meetings that started okay but quickly went off track. By asking good questions at the right time, you set your group and yourself up for success. But how does it work?


Ideation can be thought of as a technique for tackling complex problems by generating myriad and often unexpected ideas or solutions. An important and unfortunately often overlooked part of kicking off a project, brainstorming is very much a group or team activity.


When well-executed, Brainstorming helps groups to ideate freely and investigate a wide range of ideas. By challenging the group to collaborate and riff off each other, novel and near to optimal solutions can be found more rapidly and effectively, while also often aligning the group around shared goals.


The purpose of this article is to embolden you to ask good questions. The most productive questions are open-ended, short, and simple. Moving between descriptive, easy questions to more complex ones, to create measured discomfort and encourage creative thought. We describe 7 different types of questions with examples, these questions are also the building blocks to build your own.


1. Observational Questions

Observational questions often can be answered through your senses: visual, auditory, tactile, and even emotional. These lines of questioning can help commence a brainstorming session. They welcome contributors to set the stage discussing their experiences.


Starting your brainstorm session with open-ended observational questions like:

  • What do you notice about the product we’re looking at?

  • When you open up this site, what jumps out at you?

  • What are we attempting to resolve in this meeting?

  • What concrete steps must we take to progress?


Many ideation sessions stall when the contributors believe they’re being led in a specific direction, and they end up becoming self-conscious about providing the “right” answer. By asking an open-ended observational question, you can assist cast off that fear. Instead, your teammates are commenting on whatever they manifest to notice.


Observational questions work nicely in a variety of settings. The complete crew can share observations, humans can pair up, or humans can jot down their ideas. It would possibly help individuals to plan out their observations before sharing with the wider group. Experiment to see what works best—this can be part of the fun!


2. Introspective Questions

As the name suggests, introspective questions motivate participants to contemplate deeply by means of looking inward. Rather than concentrating on visible processing, the focus is on emotional or cognitive processing.


Instead of asking participants what they note about a web page, you may ask:

  • How handy or challenging is it to engage with this internet page?

  • Is there an aspect of this internet web page that surprises you?

  • Does whatever about this page remind you of other web sites you’ve visited?

  • Do you have any questions about the page?

  • How do you experience this project?

  • What about this venture excites you (or not)?

Introspective questions are powerful tools due to the fact they can encourage your teammates to dig into their feelings and experiences. It’s great to use them in the center of a session, after participants are already warmed up, to maintain the waft of conversation strong. But be careful—because introspective questions require such deep thought, they can easily exhaust your teammates. Use them with care to create meaningful and actionable conversations.


Since introspective questions can have non-public or emotional undertones, it can assist to motivate human beings to write down their responses or share them in small groups. That offers everybody sufficient probability to share sincere answers in a way that makes them feel comfortable. Allow your teammates time to replicate before coming together to share with the broader group.


3. Retrospective Questions

Retrospective questions ask participants to look backward, allowing your teammates to share the significance or implications of the subject matter at hand. Retrospective questions are important for encouraging absolutely everyone to suppose about what they learned from the session. They’re an exciting and efficient way to start translating ideas into action.


  • What have you learned?

  • What would you like to study understand more?

  • What could we do differently in the future?

  • What additional statistics ought to we gather before we begin this project?

  • What classes can we sort these thoughts into?


Though some facilitators may be tempted to ask retrospective questions at the opening of the brainstorm, they are higher suitable to the end. Retrospective questions permit you to wrap up the dialog by using distilling your thoughts and ideas into gaining knowledge of and the next steps. If you ask these questions at the commencing of the brainstorm, it doesn’t depart room for the conversation to develop. But by way of using them to conclude, you can better set the stage for in addition discussions.


4. Lateral Questions

When wondering or speaking about a problem, we can effortlessly fall into predictable patterns. It makes sense: as humans, we’re hardwired for patterns. We observe the equal day by day routines, speak in predictable ways, and assume in familiar terms. But in brainstorming, you desire to forged off the familiar and predictable—which is less complicated said than done!


Lateral wondering questions help you do simply that. These questions are designed to throw a wrench into your brainstorm. They’re surprising, sometimes even jarring. The factor is to encourage members to suppose about the trouble or subject in a new way.


Don’t be afraid to get innovative with these questions. It’s a brainstorm, so you’re here to be inclined and take chances.


  • What if we scrapped this approach and tried something else?

  • What would appear if we didn’t do this project at all?

  • How can we suppose about this hassle from anybody else’s perspective?

  • If we had endless resources, what would this seem like?


5. Actionable Questions

As the brainstorm winds down, your teammates will desire to discover out what they can do with the statistics they’ve gathered. Sometimes, it can be difficult to see how brainstorms—which tend to be chaotic, messy, and frenetic—can flip into an assignment or process. That’s where actionable questions come in.

Some actionable questions include:


  • What should we start, stop, or proceed to do? Be specific.

  • Who is taking the first step?

  • Which of these action items need to we tackle first?


These 5 kinds of questions create a good foundation to begin constructing notable brainstorming sessions. Try them out in your future meetings!


Use actionable questions at the end of a workshop to double-check that each person is on the identical page before pressing forward.


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