Use a Framestorm to Generate New Ideas

If your brainstorms aren’t yielding the innovative ideas you’d hoped for, try a different approach that involves coming up with questions about a problem, as opposed to solutions.

Brainstorming has a bad reputation—it’s associated with half-baked plans that are either too safe or too ludicrous, and never go anywhere. Instead, try framestorming: asking questions to frame the challenge at hand.  The term was coined by Stanford University professor Tina Seelig, and is used by companies like Microsoft, Kaiser Permanente, and Pfizer. If you want to conduct a framestorm, follow this model from the Right Question Institute.

Use a Framestorm to Generate New Ideas

  1. State a focus. Determine which issue to focus on and create a provocative statement, like, “Thirty percent of our customers are not happy with our service.”
  2. Get participants to ask questions. Break your team into groups of four to six people, with one group member writing down every question. Encourage everyone to keep going for 10 whole minutes, no editing or debating allowed.
  3. Have groups clean up the questions. After the 10 minutes is up, groups come together to review and clarify the questions.
  4. Tell them to choose the best questions. Each group chooses their best two or three questions to share and select the best—that is, the ones that pique the most interest in the room and open up new ways of thinking.
  5. Decide how to move forward. This may be the most challenging part. Choose questions that are the most actionable and outline an action plan to move forward.
  6. Close with a reflection. Ask participants to share what they’ve learned by using questions in this new way. Rothstein says this could lead to “a metacognitive bump” that could help further encourage framestorming.


Published July 14, 2016

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