How to Identify a Problem by Asking Questions

In a fast paced world, we tend to overvalue speedy solutions and mistake what problem we’re really solving for. Instead of rushing to a typical brainstorm, pause for a moment and generate questions.

When your team is having a hard time coming up with solutions to a problem, work backwards using the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) by The Right Question Institute. You may find that you’ve been trying to solve the wrong problem all this time!

The Question Formulation Technique (QFT)

  1. Select an area of focus for questioning. Make the area bigger than your existing problem so you can be sure you’re not limiting solutions.
  2. Ask a lot of questions. This may sound self-explanatory, but too often, teams jump to solutions. So instead, have everyone on the team take 10 minutes to write down as many questions as they can think of. What problems can you anticipate your customer having? Lead with “What is blocking…”, What is stopping…”, or “Why…”. As a team, you should aim for at least 50 questions.
  3. Share your questions. Split the team into pairs or small groups to discuss prioritize their questions. These should then be presented to the group, who will then select their three favorites to test and explore further.

Takeaway: Many teams struggle with this practice because they want to jump right to solutions. Focusing on questions can feel uncomfortable initially, but the more you explore the customer’s needs, the better your team will be able to address them.

Published February 21, 2019