The human mind has all the answers. It just requires the right key to unlock them. It’s quite common to get stuck on a problem, rack your brain trying to solve the problem all the while looking for a solution through the lens of the problem. Rarely does one find the solution to a problem at the same level as the problem.
A powerful question can also be a simple one. We tend to draw from our more favorite questions. Perhaps it is out of fear of making a wrong decision. Perhaps a core belief drives a behavior to ask a minimal amount of questions so we don’t look stupid. However when you examine the current situation defaulting to a status quo strategy becomes a limitation.
Through the educational system, as students we were trained to provide the answers instead of asking the questions. And importance was given to having the one right answer. However, once you get into your professional career, you quickly realize problem-solving is a critical skill and there is rarely only one right answer. Problems get solved by asking better questions. Your question-asking ability can severely impact the level of success you achieve.
Below are 9 powerful questions to help you start thinking in different ways…through different lenses.
1. WWXD? What would X do?
Our brains our funny. You can get stuck with a problem but then ask yourself what someone else would do in this same situation and it unlocks many more possibilities than previously available even though you never actually asked that person. There is a reason why people have those WWJD bumper stickers. Whomever that “J” is in your life, you feel has more or better or different ways to handle your existing situation. You are tapping into that person’s resources that you too have available to you but perhaps have yet to access. This gives your system permission to tap into those resources and re-examine what you are facing with new eyes.
2. What’s the easiest first step I can take here?
Often times when we are presented with a solution, it entails multiple steps or a change of behavior, and the effort required to execute feels daunting. There is always a “better” first place to start. It’s finding that first domino to knock over. It helps you re-examine what you are facing and break it down into smaller more manageable chunks. Consume the watermelon one bite at a time.
3. What’s the least I can do that will have the most impact?
This question plays well with the question above. Think of 80/20 rule. Where can you place your attention and energy that requires minimum effort and yields maximum results. This may not be necessarily the easiest step to take but the ROI justifies taking that action sooner. One way to think about it is how people tackle debt. One strategy is to payoff the credit cards with the lowest balance so you build momentum. This would fall in the category of the previous question. Another strategy is to payoff the cards with the highest interest rate hence the best ROI which falls in the category of this question.
4. Imagine a year from now already having resolved the problem, and look back to today, how exactly did you resolve the issue?
We think of time operating linearly unfolding in one direction, however in our imagination, we can explore time from many different perspectives. One way to use this strategy is to move past the issue all together and reflect back on how you resolved it.
5. How would people who are or would be most effected by this situation resolve it or want it resolved?
While this may seem similar to the first question, what you are tapping into here is that any decision will have its consequences and people will be affected, and viewing the problem through their eyes. This helps access your empathetic side while considering deeper implications of your actions.
6. What if you removed one or more constraints, how would you resolve it then?
Most of the time problems have a time, money, personnel, or some other constraint that limits options. Sometimes those constraints can be made more lax opening up new possibilities.
7. What don’t I know that I don’t know that is needed to resolve this?
This is a critical question delving into your blindspots. You may think you have sufficient information to solve the issue but the information that resides in your blindspot may be critical in making the best decision possible. This question may open up your blinders to think in new ways. It may also force you to ask new, different, or tough questions from others around you to gather more information before making a decision.
8. If a colleague or employee were facing the same issue and asked you for help, how would you advise them?
Similar to question one where you are tapping into the resources of experts, with this question, you are repositioning yourself as the expert. It’s funny how we can come up with answers for other people’s problems rather easily.
9. Is this really my problem to solve?
Sometimes you can fall in the trap of owning all the problems. Sometimes it is really someone else’s problem. Sometimes you need to ask for help. Sometimes it is an opportunity to delegate the problem to someone else and let them rise to the challenge of tackling it.
Hopefully going through these set of questions opens your mind up to conjure up infinitely more questions you can ask yourself to unlock the possibilities that reside within you.