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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

The Question Burst Strategy, Part 1, Set the Stage

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


May 14, 2018

Hal Gregersen invites leaders to consider brainstorming questions instead of answers. He proposes this process opens us to novel insights and transformative thinking, moving us past our cognitive biases. He offers a three-step process. This week we explore Step 1: Set the Stage.

An individual should frame a problem in a manner that can be explained to a group in two minutes or less. Include how things would change for the better if the problem was solved.

Select a group to do the brainstorming, including two or three people who are unfamiliar with the problem. That assists the group in discovering perspectives that might have been left out through its biases. Then frame two guidelines for the brainstorming: 1) only questions can be contributed and 2) no explanations of the questions can be given.

Invite the group to focus on questions that are open-ended, cognitively complex, and move from descriptive (what’s working?) to speculative (what if? what might be?). Avoid accusatory or aggressive questions. Keep the questions short and simple.

Before starting, the leader should reflect on his/her emotional state, writing for 10 seconds about feeling positive, negative or neutral. This allows the leader to attend to how emotions may be affecting creative energy.

Take some time this week to consider how you might prepare to frame a problem for a group to use the question burst strategy. Who might you include in the group for maximum effectiveness?

Source: “Better Brainstorming,” by Hal Gregersen (Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2018)

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