In today’s fast-paced business environment we often move too quickly to idea generation before taking time to properly consider the issues at hand. The ideas or solutions you come up with initially will be the most obvious, what you might call shallow thinking. They will often be cliché-ridden stereotypes or quick rehashes of previous ideas.
So before you start, think about why they’ve asked for it. Questioning the brief doesn’t necessarily mean finding fault with it, but asking questions about the motivations behind it, or the trigger points that led to it, can really help you come up with better ideas and solutions.
To dig deeper into a brief or problem, try and think about how you can view it from different angles or perspectives. Zoom out to think about the wider causes or implications, and zoom in to dissect every small detail. Think about how various others (colleagues, leaders, competitors, original thinkers) might view the same brief, and how they might approach it.
Essentially, you'd benefit from asking as many questions as possible about the brief you've been given. You don't need to ask all these questions to the source of the brief, you can just ask yourself - use questioning as a valuable creative thinking technique.
Another good start is this approach from the CIA. The Phoenix Checklist features two lists of questions to help you drill into problems and plans. Some of our favourite questions from the list:
- Why is it necessary to solve the problem?
- What is it you don’t yet understand?
- What are the best, worst and most probable cases you can imagine?
- How will you know when you are successful?