Tag Archives: Design thinking

Extract More Value from Meetings with Effective Questions

Shane Snow

Shane Snow

Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently.com  advocates asking incisive questions to extract more value from meetings, mentors’ guidance, and chance encounters with thought leaders and influencers.

He notes that expert journalists, researchers, innovators, and therapists are trained to ask effective questions, and their common “best practices” include:

  • Listening more than talking
  • Asking open-ended questions to avoid suggesting responses: “Who?”, “What?”, “When?”, “Where?”, “How?”, “Why?”
    They use closed-ended questions sparingly: “Is?”, “Would?” and “Do?”
  • Posing one concise question at a time.
    They avoid multiple choice questions
  • Waiting for an answer without interjecting more questions or comments.
    They rarely interrupt themselves or others
  • Tolerating the other person’s silence for several seconds before talking
  • Directly, repeatedly probing for insightful, revealing replies
  • Nodding only when the response is intelligible, logical, and understandable
  • Interjecting questions or rephrasing the original question to redirect tangential responses
  • Cross-checking information and following up possible inconsistencies with more probing questions
Sakichi Toyoda

Sakichi Toyoda

Nearly a century earlier, Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries introduced an iterative problem-solving approach based on posing “Five Whys” to uncover the root cause of an issue.

The Lean StartupThis technique is now-widely applied in Lean Manufacturing, and is advocated by Eric Reis in The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses .

‘”Five Whys” were reduced to “Three Whys” to uncover customer objections in sales situations, and was modified Judith Beck in cognitive therapy to identify underlying Core Beliefs that lead to negative automatic thoughts.

Judith Beck

Judith Beck

Beck softens the “Five Whys” by repeatedly asking “If that were true, what would it mean?”
Her model that suggest connections among:

Early experience->Core beliefs (schemas) ->Underlying assumptions (if/then – conditional) ->Automatic thoughts-> Physical Experiences->Self-Limiting Behaviors

Five Whys to Uncover Core Beliefs

Lois Frankel

Lois Frankel

Therapist and writer Lois Frankel illustrated the similarity of effective questions in psychotherapy sessions with those used to spur inquiry and innovative breakthroughs.
She advises interviewers and consultants to:

  • Use questions to define your purpose:
    What do you want to gain from this conversation?

    • Help
    • Advice
    • Information
    • Commitment
    • New ideas
    • Clarification of opinions or attitudes
    • Decision
      Overcoming your strengths
    • What is the “real” problem? Engineers and business people answer this question using a “Root Cause Analysis”
      • What are the options?
      • What are the likely consequences?
      • What results will justify the invested time, effort or money?
      • Ask specific questions:
        • What could we do differently?
        • Why is this important?
        • How can we best meet our objective?
        • What do you want to happen?
          • What don’t you want to happen?
          • What is the best thing that could happen?
          • What is the worst thing that could happen?
          • How will you react if you don’t follow this course of action?

Frankel advises to

  • Maintain eye contact:
  • Focus full attention on the interviewee
  • Repeat and summarize important points to verify accurate understanding
  • Listen for:
  • Content (facts)
  • Intent (feelings)
  • The way these are expressed (process).
    Warren Berger

    Warren Berger

    Journalist Warren Berger applied refined questioning in Design Thinking processes to produce innovative solutions in Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your World .

    He advocates continued exploration of meaningful “big” questions in his blog, A More Beautiful Question.

-*What effective questioning practices have you found most helpful in achieving business results?

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New Questions, “Senses” for Innovative Thinking and Problem-Solving

Tim Hurson

Tim Hurson

Canadian creativity theorist Tim Hurson developed the Productive Thinking Model (“ThinkX”), a structured approach to solving problems or generating creative ideas, outlined in Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking.

It incorporates structured questioning approaches similar to those found in Design Thinking and Innovation laboratories:

  • What’s Going On?” defines the problem’s context and potential solution structure
  • What’s the Itch?” generates an extensive list of perceived problems or opportunities, then distills these into problem clusters, which reveal highest priority issues
  • What’s the Impact?” analyzes the issue and its implications
  • What’s the Information?” provides problem details
  • Who’s Involved?” identifies involved stakeholders
  • What’s the Vision?” and “What’s Success?” specify desired changes in the future state using the mnemonic “DRIVE“:
  1. Do – What must the solution do?
  2. Restrictions – What must the solution not do?
  3. Investment – What resources can be invested?
  4. Values – What values must the solution fulfill?
  5. Essential outcomes – What are other elements specify the required future state?
  • What’s the Question?” defines the problem as a question through brainstorming, clustering and prioritizing
  • What are Answers?” generates possible solutions through the same approach of brainstorming, clustering, and prioritizing
  • What’s the Solution?” develops the suggested solution into a more robust approach using the mnemonic POWER:
  1. Positives – What’s good about the idea?
  2. Objections – What’s sub-optimal about the recommendation?
  3. What else? – What else does the solution suggest?
  4. Enhancements – How can the solution’s benefits be improved?
  5. Remedies – How can the idea’s drawbacks be corrected?
  • How are Resources Aligned?” specified tasks, timelines, milestones, deliverables, issues, mitigations, stakeholders, and project team members who execute plan.
    TED Talk
Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future outlines required innovation thinking skills to solve problems using approaches like Hurson’s Productive Thinking.

A Whole New MindHe argues that contemporary world economic conditions require six conceptual, subjective, holistic “senses” to transform abundant information into meaningful and actionable implications:

  • Design is more important than function
  • Story eclipses argument
  • Symphony” (collaborative integration) surpasses focus
  • Empathy is more relevant than logic
  • Play trumps seriousness
  • Meaning is valued above accumulation.
Seymour Epstein

Seymour Epstein

Seymour Epstein of University of Massachusetts supports Pink’s argument by positing two thinking styles in Constructive Thinking: The Key to Emotional Intelligence:Constructive Thinking

  • Rational-analytical mind, measured by intelligence tests
  • Intuitive-experiential mind, associated with emotions and more intuitive ways of knowing, and measured by Epstein’s Constructive Thinking Inventory (CTI)

This “bicameral mind” model is similar to earlier notions of “Left-brain, Right-

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

brain”, and Dweck’s Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner

Like Howard Gardner of Harvard’s theory of multiple intelligences in Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Epstein suggests that both “minds” demonstrate unique types of intelligent knowing, and the Intuitive-experiential mind can be developed to support Emotional Intelligence competences of self-awareness and self-regulation.Frames of Mind

These authors and their findings suggest the value of cultivating less analytic and conscious modes of knowing to enhance:

  • Creative problem solving
  • Emotional Intelligence skills: Self-awareness, social insight, self-regulation, managing conflict, collaboration, influence in interpersonal relationships.

-*What skills and techniques help you innovate problem solutions?

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Effective Questions as Change and Innovation Catalyst

James Thurber

James Thurber

American humorist and cartoonist James Thurber reassured his readers that “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers,” a dictum supported by philosophers, mindfulness meditation practitioners, psychotherapists, scientists, artists, and creative others.

Given the importance of questioning, many resources are available to refine skill in inquiry:  Understanding others’ questions, framing high-impact queries, responding to others, and using questions to catalyze individual and organizational change.

QBQJohn Miller’s sales-oriented QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life advocates understanding the intent of statements phased as questions by crafting “What?” and “How?” questions instead of defense-provoking “Why?”

His approach is applicable in organizational management and change situations, and argues for increasing personal accountability while decreasing blame by focusing on the underlying work concerns like achieving revenue targets, deliverable timelines, customer satisfaction goals, cost savings.

The Art of Powerful QuestionsLike Miller, Eric Vogt, Juanita Brown, David Isaacs advocate “What?” questions in The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation, and Action.

This team asserts that high-impact questions in business situations are valuable because they

• Evoke the listener’s curiosity, imagination, creative problem-solving, new possibilities
• Stimulate reflective conversation
• Provoke thoughtful consideration of diverse perspectives, contributions
• Clarify underlying assumptions
• Generates energy, progress, improvement
• Focus attention on issues and alternatives
• Memorably resonate with meaning
• Articulate progress toward shared understanding
• Suggest more questions

Dennis Matthies

Dennis Matthies, Chief Questioning Officer of Training organization Vervago supplies the “how” of questioning by helping business participants refine skill in formulating seven types of “precision” analytic questions, drawing on formal logic and critical thinking disciplines:

  • Assumption Questions, including existence, uniqueness, measurement, possibility, value, audience, time constancy, category, similarity
  • Basic Critical Questions (BCQ), including data, source
  • Questions of Clarification, including ambiguity/vagueness, “pivot table” segmentation for granular analysis
  • Go/No Go Questions, including “meeting basics and participation”, participant motivation analysis, inquiry focus

Vervago advocates “precision” responses to questions by:

  • Referring to the question
  • Answering briefly
  • Anticipating and addressing underlying concerns embedded in the question.
David Cooperrider

David Cooperrider

David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University broadened the vision of effective questioning’s potential impact when he developed Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as an affirmative approach collaborative organizational change.

This approach reduces resistance by focusing on desired change instead of the perceived problem, outlined in his book, with Diana Whitney, Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change.

Appreciative InquiryAI’s “4Ds” of organizational change share some similarities with Design Thinking Processes:

  • Discovery Phase – Appreciating strengths and best practices of the current situation
  • Dream Phase – Envisioning the value and benefits of a proposed change
  • Design Phase – Defining processes and organizational structures that can deploy demonstrated strengths while moving toward a defined change state
  • Destiny Phase – Strengthen the organizational system’s capacity to sustain ongoing positive change

-*How do you use questions to clarify direction and initiate change?

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Design Thinking to Address Social and Business Problems

Design Thinking integrates structured creative problem-solving and “systems thinking” methods in design, engineering, business, educational, and non-profit settings by drawing on:

  • Empathy” for the problem context, often using ethnographic field research
  • Creativity in developing solutions
  • Rationality in aligning solutions with the context

David M. Kelley

David M. Kelley, IDEO founder, applied “design thinking” to business, based on Rolf Faste’s discussions Stanford of Robert McKim’s foundational book, Experiences in Visual Thinking

Design Thinking has been categorized in seven stages:  

  •     Define the problem, audience, criteria for “success,” priority
  •     Research the issue’s history, obstacles, previous efforts, stakeholders, end-users, thought leaders
  •     Ideate via brainstorming to identify end-users’ needs, wants
  •     Prototype with combined, expanded refined ideas, solicit feedback from end users, others
  •     Choose solutions after reviewing the objective
  •     Implement after determining, planning tasks, resources, assignments, execution timeline
  •     Learn by gathering end-user feedback, evaluating whether the solution met its goals, document successes and areas for improvement
    Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, discussed the cycle of Inspiration-Ideation–Implementation by applying such complementary processes as analysis and synthesis, and convergent and divergent thinking in Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation.His TED Talk characterizes Design Thinking as a collaborative, participatory, human-centered process to solve problems innovatively by integrating opposing ideas and constraints and balancing among:
  • user desirability
  • technical feasibility
  • economic viabilityThomas Lockwood’s Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value, echoed Design Thinking’s use of careful observation, field research, graphic representation of solutions, and prototyping.He augmented the familiar framework by contributing an additional recommendation:  Concurrent business analysis, to accelerate innovative business strategy development and implementation.

    University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor Jeanne Liedtka added to Design Thinking process structures with her four-phase, 10-step framework in Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers, organized around key questions:

  • What Is?
  • What If?
  • What Wows?
  • What Works?
    Frog Design’s David Sherwin and Robert Fabricant developed Collective Action Toolkit, well-suited for young people in developing countries to become involved in developing solutions to pressing community problems.The process helps them develop important life skills:
  • Critical thinking
  • Listening to others
  • Asking effective questions
  • Generating innovative ideas
  • Active collaboration
  • Creating high-impact, motivating stories
  • Sustaining collective action
    CAT activities draw on design Thinking Principles in six areas:
  • Imagine New Ideas
  • Make Something Real
  • Plan for Action
  • Build Your Team
  • Seek New Understanding
  • Clarify Your GoalOutputs are documented according to:
  • What We Did
  • What We Learned
  • What We’ll DoNext
    Frog’s Collective Action Toolkit was field-tested with girls Bangladesh and Kenya, who reported increased self-confidence to engage in community development activities, and increased involvement and leadership in community building initiatives.-*What are some ways that Design Thinking can solve problems you see in work and life?