Innovation tends to be focused on finding the right solutions. But at Brand Genetics we think there is great value in focusing on finding the right questions.
If the question is wrong then failure is the likeliest outcome, no matter how good the answer: as Einstein said, ‘If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes finding solutions”. Our suspicion is a large proportion of FMCG innovation fails because too little time is spent thinking about the question innovation needs to answer. Luckily whilst Brainstorming is a discredited approach, Questionstorming has huge value.
This approach focuses a team’s energies on asking questions, rather than trying to construct solutions. Put simply the aim is to generate at least 50 questions about the challenge, forcing you to look at it from a range of different angles (Hal Greggersen describes the approach in this short video); it digs deeper into fundamental issues and often opens a teams’ eyes to new aspects of the challenge.
In addition to Questionstorming, here are some simple techniques to get to the right questions and look at the challenge from new perspectives:
Simplify the Question: Spend time making the question as simple as you can: this will help you understand the core of the issue and focus you on what really matters. After all, ‘A problem well stated is a problem half solved’.
Exposing Assumptions: Every question – no matter how simple it may appear – comes with assumptions. Make these explicit so it is possible to explore and challenge them, asking why they exist: breaking these assumptions can lead to real innovation.
Reverse the Problem: A surprisingly powerful way to find new angles on an issue is by turning it on its head. So if you’re trying to make a healthier snack, think about how to make it unhealthier (eg. add chocolate, take out the fruit); then consider why you can’t simply do the opposite.
So stop brainstorming for solutions and start asking questions to unlock a fresh and deeper understanding of the problem: you’ll find questions are the new answers.