The Answer is in the Question, The Invitational Stem

April 22nd, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

Newton’s third law of motion states that “Every action is accompanied by an equal and opposite reaction. And, these forces always occur in pairs”. This simple law reveals that a reactive force cannot exist without an active counterpart.

An answer is a reaction of opposition, agreement or indifference to a previous action. The magnitude or quality of an answer largely depends on the question. The principles in the art of conversation instruct that desired results depend on the right answers, and the right answers depend on the right questions.

This truth is especially critical in creative thinking and ideation, where optimal results are desired.

A simple way to build a strong question is to phrase it around an Invitational Stem.

An Invitational Stem is the beginning part of a question that focuses on very specific phrasing. The focus on the phrasing is what creates a great question, thus resulting in a great answer. The key structure of the phrase is:

“In what ways might we…..”?

In what ways might we increase productivity?” is a better question than “How do we increase productivity?”, or “Let’s increase productivity!

The term “How?” is narrow-focused and asks for a specific. “Ways” is broad, open-ended and encourages creative thought.

Another great phrase alternative is:

“How might we…”?

Might…” implies a greater level of curiosity, wonder and experimenting.

In ideation, quantity is a value as much as quality.