Three simple and open questions are at the heart of an innovation process.
This Farnham street blog post references the book by Warren Berger called "A more beautiful question" where Berger describes three key questions as being vital to creative thinking and innovation.
The first question is Why. Why are things the way they are? Why can't they be different? (Why is closely allied to Why Not). This is a challenging question, that challenges the status quo and accepted wisdom, and opens the possibility of out-of-the-box thinking. It also ensures we fully understand the problem and the issues that create it. As Berger says:
Although we may think we have a brilliant idea in our heads for a new product, or a new answer to an old question, or a new way of doing an old thing, unless we understand why things are the way they are, we’re not yet on solid ground.Once we understand why things are the way they are, the next question is What If? This is the question that opens new possibilities, not by concentrating on solutions, bit on vision. What If is a visionary leap. Berger tells us:
The What If stage is the blue-sky moment of questioning, when anything is possible. Those possibilities may not survive the more practical How stage; but it’s critical to innovation that there be time for wild, improbable ideas to surface and to inspire. If the word Why has penetrative power, enabling the questioner to get past assumptions and dig deep into problems, the words What if have a more expansive effect–allowing us to think without limits or constraints, firing the imagination.The final question is the one that fills the gap between the understood current state and the blue sky future; it is the How question. How is the reality test, which Berger suggests we can best explore through trial and error, as we work our way towards the What If vision.
These simple questions, within a framework like Deep Dive, and accompanied by suspension of judgement, can form the basis of a solid innovation process.