Sunday, June 29, 2008

Asking Questions - Azara Feroz Sayed

Came accross this article on 'Why Brainstorming is weak' bringing out the flaws in modern brainstorming.

Brainstorming is by far the most widely used tool for creative thinking. It was developed in the 1940s and 1950s by advertising executive Alex Osborn, who developed a crisp list of four basic rules for generating creative ideas:
* Criticism is ruled out. Adverse judgment of ideas must be withheld until later.
* "Free-wheeling" is welcomed. The wilder the idea, the better; it is easier to tame down than to think up.
* Quantity is wanted. The greater the number of ideas, the more the likelihood of winners.
* Combination and improvement are sought. In addition to contributing ideas of their own, participants should suggest how ideas of others can be turned into better ideas; or how two or more ideas can be joined into still another idea

The flaws in modern brianstorming are
* Lack of skills for brainstorming and thinking creatively in participants - No training for creating novel ideas. The assumption is that the creative ideas are there already, locked in the mind; we just need to let them out
* Lack of preparation - flaw in assuming that brilliant, never-before-thought-of ideas will suddenly burst forth from a group of people assembled to brainstorm for an hour
* No harvesting of ideas - Those ideas that don't make out of the idea filtering process are not harvested further - they are lost

This reminded me of the 'Six Thinking Hats' brainstorming session I attended for problem solving. The 'Six Thinking Hat' tool by Bono is not only used for idea generation (brainstorming) but also is used for Idea Elimination or Filtering like the Pareto Chart. Click on the picture to read the text.

During this session each of the participant was provided with a cardboard cap (The ones we make for the kids, a square paper folded diagonally and the ends stapled together - there were more than one blue, green etc i.e. there was a blue group, green group etc). A picture was taken of the group wearing the hats before the session, giving sufficient time for the participants to start thinking Yellow, Red etc. This was followed by an hour long brain storming session where the participants spent most of the time asking questions under the influence of their imposed thinking style. Everyone in the group found it a very enlightening experience and agreed that all problems could be resolved if we simply spent time in asking Questions - The new info presented/reviewed with new Questions helps to create new neuro pathways!

When we think in the normal way, we try to do too much at once. We may be looking at the information, forming ideas, and judging someone else's ideas all at the same time. The Six Hats method allows us to unbundle thinking. Instead of trying to do everything at once, we separate out the different aspects of thinking. This way we can pay full attention to each aspect in turn. Think of fullcolor printing, where the basic color separations are made and then each basic color is printed separately onto the same sheet to give full-color printing. In the same way, we separate the modes of thinking and then apply each mode to the same subject in order to end up with full-color thinking on the subject. There is a suggestion that the chemical setting in the brain (neurotransmitters, etc.) may be different when we are being positive from when we are being negative and from when we are being creative. If this proves to be so, then there is an absolute need to separate out the different components of thinking in order to do each properly. It would be impossible to have one brain setting that was ideal for all sorts of thinking. Traditional argument is totally useless for designing new possibilities. Instead, we need Parallel Thinking, where each thinker puts forward his or her thoughts in parallel with the thoughts of others-not attacking the thoughts of others. The Six Thinking Hats method is a practical way of carrying out Parallel Thinking. The Six Hats system is not just another gimmick. This system provides an alternative to that most basic of thinking procedures: the argument. In traditional adversarial thinking, A and B are in conflict. Each side seeks to criticize the other point of view. The Six Hats method allows Parallel Thinking. Both A and B wear each hat together as they explore all sides of an issue. Adversarial confrontation is replaced by a cooperative exploration of the subject. Brainstorming (a parallel thinking process) is a good tool when we are looking for ideas - possibilities - thinking about a problem from various aspects in contrast with the the Argumentive or Critical Thinking process (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle developed the argumentive technique) which is a good tool for arguing between claims.

Asking Qs remains the basic requirement for Critical Thinking too - asking questions to understand the problem, isolating the fact, feelings (refer to the list of the many fallacies in logical thinking - The importance of asking questions to gain information is reduced as we go about problem solving and decision making in a highly process oriented world, that we work in today!

Feroz never makes decisions for me - He advices me to ask Qs - What is the worst that can happen? What is the best that can happen? Are there any areas of strength in the situation? How can the area of strength be used to your benefit?
I am sure Feroz's students would also agree to this as they look for his advice - he provides pointers to arrive at the decision but doesn't makes the decision. Feroz is endeared for 'teaching us to fish rather than fishing for us'.

Some of the ideas from Tony Robbins about the importance of asking Questions. Though my notes below may sound related to Qs leading to personal success - they are applicable to all areas of life - they way all the great explorers and leaders did to think about the possibility!
* Ask new Qs - as asking the same Qs will not help us get to a new solution
* Asking the right set of questions can help us to learn more about ourselves. Questions help us to provide a new understanding of the problem, they help to focus on the solution instead of the problem, moves us to action and provides other possible options.
* Questions focus thought like a lens condenses sunlight.
* Asking the right question at the right time turns confusion into clarity, and frustration into satisfaction e.g. what else does it mean? what is the one thing that is working/good? what is the experience/learning from the result (sucess/failure)?
* Asking right Qs is important - if you ask empowering Qs you will get empowering answers. If you ask disempowering Qs like - why can I not do this - you will hear reasons why you can't do it. If you ask empowering Qs - what do I need to make it happen - you will hear answers that you can work on to make it happen. How can I turn this around is another empowering Q. e.g. of a jewish holocaust survivor - he simply kept asking himself the Q - what do I need to do to stay alive today. Difference in quality of life is baded on if you ask empowering or disempowering Qs -Seek and you will get it!
* Asking empowering Qs provides us
- Access to new resources that we had missed on earlier
- Provide momentum
- Help us focus on solutions instead of problems
- Understand deeper meaning of life
- Learning from situation
- Makes us feel empowered, responsible for the change
* Disempowering Qs
- Make the problem bigger
- Gets you into Why me god state
- Gets you into a stuck state
- Gets you into a loop
* All successful people asked profound Qs making people think - JFK's Q - Ask what not what the country...made people think. Einstein was bored in a calculus class and kept asking several "What If Qs" to himself about speed of light while looking at his watch which eventually culminated into theory of relativity. Wright brothers must have asked how can we fly? "What If" is a great way to create possibilities - We can ask similar Qs and become as successful!
* Funny people keep asking a question all the time - How can I make it funny - this makes them be funny all the time
* We must discipline ourselves to regularly STOP, ASK Qs and Anwser them - to change how we feel
* Change Qs to change focus - to change state of mind - ask Qs to direct the mind
* If we are looking at living a better quality of life we need to ask better Qs
* If we are looking for unique experience we need to ask unique Qs
* For creating possibilities - ask possibility Qs - What could I learn, What is life, What do I really want, How can I give up my addiction and enjoy the process of giving it up, Who do I love and who loves me, What am I grateful for, What is great in my life, What am I really capable of more than before, What must I do to create new results, How can I become financial secure, What is one thing that I change, What is the one thing I need to do solve the problem, What is the one action I need to take to turn this around, What else could this mean,
* One of the pain area we have is managing difficult people - When someone is rude - ask - What is that is causing the person to be rude - How can I do to help this person treat me well - Qsking these Qs will make us have control rather than someone else taking control of our life - being leader of life - having control of our life
* Life is defined by our beliefs and convications - Asking "WHO I AM" is the most profound question - Taking time to write down the answer to this Q will help us determine our current beliefs and convictions and the need to change them - to achieve the things we desire
* Thinking is the process of asking possibility Qs to take dreams to reality. A simple tool to improve our capacity to enjoy life by asking Qs.
* After every action - take time to ask - How far away we are from our intention? What did we learn? What do we need to differently next to get to our intention?
* How do you feel when you are happy?
* What is your passion? What is your belief?


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