In my book Beyond the Obvious, I discuss the power of questions to spark innovation in a business or industry. If you’ve read the the book, you know what some of those questions are. They begin,
- “What are . . . ?”
- “What if . . . ?”
- “What will be . . . ?”
- “Who are . . . ?”
These questions are lock breakers for getting past the obvious to discover breakthrough innovative ideas. They are best used to elicit responses in a group where ideas can be played off each other. That way, one person’s musing may spark an idea from someone else that is so far off the beaten track, it turns out to be the next new frontier.
But in personal creativity, other questions may prove more valuable. These are the questions that someone chews on alone, at least for a while. And these questions often begin, “Why . . . ?”
- “Why must it be done this way?”
- “Why is this a closed topic?”
- “Why does the standard explanation not match what I see?”
- “Why does this process work but not that one?”
The variations are endless, but the motivation is the same: to get past the superficial appearance to the underlying reality. The amazing thing about reality is that it can be uncovered, examined, and expressed in endless new ways.
The trick is to ask “Why?” and to keep asking, not just five times, nor simply along a linear topic, but to ask until the questions bring you to the end of knowledge into discovering a new hypothesis. With hypothesis comes experimenting, and with experimenting, more questions to ask.
Asking questions is a shortcut for expressing curiosity. And curiosity is the beginning spark of personal creativity.