Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Are You Keeping Your Participants Inside the Box?

Is there anything innovative about thinking outside the box? I don't think so. In fact, if you think outside the box, you are still thinking about the box. You might be outside the box, but standing right next to it.  

Shouldn't we forget about the box entirely? 

Ask the Right Questions to Forget About the Box

I am reminded of what I learned about asking questions in the book, The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations that Matter. In it, there is a great example of how to ask a thought provoking question and how not to. 

How Not to Ask a Discussion Question

How can we improve our processes, so we can get products to market faster?

Why is this not a good discussion question? Because it anchors any new ideas to "our processes." Most people will offer ideas in the context of existing processes. Not exactly, outside the box thinking.

How to Ask a Discussion Question

If we had market leading products that our customers loved, what would that look like?

It is a subtle difference, but by asking people to imagine the ideal, they will more likely be free to think about any and all ideas related to delivering awesome products to delighted customers, rather than on how they could improve product development processes.


As you write discussion questions for your learning designs, think about how you ask questions so that you don't keep your participants in the box.

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