Ask the right Question - Bite Size tips

Written by Julian Sykes

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This is the most important thing you can ever do if you want to get anywhere in solving a problem. Questions are where it all starts. If you have a bad question you will invariably get a bad reply. In today's culture the question and how it is delivered is also even more complex. We must look at how and where the question is asked.

A few examples for you:

THE BAD - The old time travel story
Imagine a group of people from the middle ages have been transported to 2011. You want to ask them about their thoughts on the 21st century, and how it compares to their lives back in the middle ages. You decide to ask them through an online questionnaire as it is cheap and simple to implement. Only problem is the people dont know how to access the internet or use a computer, so you don't get any responses and are no further in your understanding of their opinions.

THE GOOD - So lets imagine another scenario which is based on open IDEO's learnings
You have a plan to develop an online community that works together to create responses to some of the issues in the world through design and creative responses. You start to think about how best to get to these people. You think the best way would be to go to them and so ask them on a online community that already exists (facebook), you ask them a few questions about your plans and see what kind of issues these people are interested in. You get great feedback and learn some important information to then go ahead and setup your own venture.

Finally one more thing - Framing
A good question can always be improved by adding a bit of context to it. If it is online then add some further information to frame the question. So stopping people take the question off in directions you do not want to investigate. Also the context or story immediately pulls you into the question and brings better responses.

Note
A big thanks to Tom Hulme, IDEO for his talk at Intersection 2011 who spoke about open IDEO and the learnings they have had through the project.