Questions Bursts: How to gain new perspectives on a challenge in 4 steps

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By Maria Victoria De Santiago

November 1, 2022

This post is part of “The power of inquiry” series, where we reflect on the role of questions and explore ways to master the art of asking. Find part one here and part two here.

In order to open new paths for our problems, and to tear down barriers toward new solutions, we need new questions, better questions that defeat preconceived assumptions.

“For there are few things as useless, if not dangerous, as the right answer to the wrong question.”

— Peter Drucker

This exercise, like many other frameworks I’ve been sharing, is greatly influenced by the environment, the conditions and culture that surround them as well as the participants’ mindset and alignment. 

While it will not give you the answers, it will certainly open novel avenues for the solution.

Let’s dive into the 3 steps Gregersen proposes for this approach:

Let’s get ready! (Photo by Chad Walton on Unsplash)

As with most of these methods and techniques, it all starts with selecting a challenge. Which one? It needs to be important and exciting enough for you, a motivating challenge that will push you and inspire you to think with others about how to tackle it. 

With the challenge selected, invite others to the exercise. You want to widen perspectives, so try to get people with different levels of understanding of the challenge than you and also try to include people who are different from you in terms of worldview and “cognitive style”. The focus of the exercise is to uncover what you have not yet seen, so cast a diverse and rich group for the Question Burst.

Frame challenge is a concise, high-level quick way. Keep it short, to 2 to 5 minutes in order to avoid translating your preconceived thoughts about it: you want to keep it as unbiased as possible to make the most out of their contribution.

  • Explain the impact of having the problem solved
  • Briefly introduce why it has not yet been solved
Turn those engines on! (Photo by James Beheshti on Unsplash)


Now, let’s set a few rules with the team. In Hal Gregersen’s words: “No percolating”

  • Contribute only questions
  • Do not attempt to answer the questions.
    (Let the team know you will redirect any such attempt).
  • Don’t. Just don’t waste time in preambles. Shoot straight to the question. (Explanations lead people towards a specific way of seeing the problem and we are trying to avoid that.)
  • Keep notes. Write down all the questions.

Before starting, do an emotional check. Dedicate a few seconds to understanding the general group mood. You’ll be checking it again after brainstorming the questions.

Set the timer, and dedicate 4 minutes to brainstorming only questions. 4 minutes may seem little, but your goal is to at least get to 15–20 questions, and you will soon realize that refraining from answering can be challenging even for such a small amount of time.

You want to write down all the questions, and ensure you are capturing everything verbatim. Ask the team to help you on this task, to ensure you don’t unconsciously censor or leave out something you are not understanding immediately or you might even not want to hear. Tough, huh?

Throw your questions in the middle, while writing other questions down too. This will reveal patterns in how you’ve been thinking about the problem and help you understand your own thinking.

The timer goes off, and now is the time to do a new quick emotional check. Why do we even talk about emotional checks? It’s been proven that the emotional state with which you tackle a problem greatly impacts your ability to solve it. And one of the benefits of this method is that it helps improve the overall feeling of teams regarding the challenge ahead and energizes them.

You’ve generated a list of questions….What comes next?

Explore new pathways (Photo by Morgan Von Gunten on Unsplash)

3. UNPACK THE QUESTIONS: Identify the relevant questions.

Now, on your own, it’s time to study the questions. Which questions might open new possibilities? Focus on searching for those.

“80% of the time, this exercise produces at least one question that usefully reframes the problem and provides a new angle for solving it.”

— Hal Gregersen (Questions are the answer).

Think about the following aspects while assessing the questions:

  • Is it somehow different, does it spark your curiosity?
  • Is it a novel question you haven’t considered yet?
  • Does it spark any emotional response?

Now, with a few questions selected, keep working on them and try to expand them, opening up, even more, the problem space these questions created, which also creates a broader field of potential solutions. You can try opening it up with several methods, the “5 whys” method is among the most used.

(If you want to explore “The 5 Whys” technique and learn 2 more methods you should know, check out my previous article here.)

Choose your adventure (Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash)


Take at least one of those questions, at least one of those new territories to explore, and commit to exploring and discovering what this new avenue for solutions holds.

Gregersen recommends creating an action plan thinking of the following 3 weeks: What will you do, what action are you planning to take, to discover the new potential solutions your questions have uncovered? It is a great way to ensure you have your next steps laid out to continue on your quest.

This is quite a straightforward method, will it be as simple as it seems? One might be inclined to say yes. And that the hardest part is to make it part of our culture and daily practice, to ensure you take time when facing a problem to ask more questions. At some point one can even say is a “road-tested” method for better outcomes. The key takeaway, which is even more relevant than the method itself is: we should try to create spaces for questioning.

The question burst method is interesting due to its set of rules while brainstorming, it creates an artificial unique environment where usual practices are forcibly removed. And as an experiment, it can have great value if from experiencing it people start valuing more the power of questioning.

“One can begin to reshape the landscape with a single flower.”

— Spock

At Arionkoder we love to tackle new challenges and design digital products, drop us a line to see how we can collaborate with you.

If you enjoyed this piece, make sure you check out Hal Gregersen’s site! Also, see other Resources by Hal Gregersen: