Switch the Questions

Have you ever been in a meeting or presentation and someone asks a question that takes everyone’s breath away?

It might be question that no-one was prepared to ask.

Or a question that has the potential to cut-through the current discussion.

Or a question that might lead to a new solution, customer experience or growth opportunity.

Whatever the question we often overplay the importance of answers and underplay the role of an insightful question.

As Professor Beau Lotto* notes,

‘So the right question – though small – can cause a person, an invention, an idea, an institution, or even a whole culture to change.’  (Beau Lotto, Deviate, 2017, page 213)

The key point is that we are encouraged to jump in and answer a question.

In fact, our education system encourages this type of thinking.

This point is made well by Professor Robert Langer;

‘When you’re a student, you’re judged by how well you answer a question, asked by someone else.

But in life you’re judged by how good your questions are. (Quoted by Hal Gregersen, Better Brainstorming, HBR, March-April, 2018).

Switch the questions is one of the 6 Switches and encourages you to pause and consider the questions you are asking.

Asking more original questions can lead to more original ideas, solutions and growth opportunities.

How to use:

In my switch thinking workshops I have considerable success by encouraging participants to ask consumer based questions or ones that use emotional rather than rational language.

For example,

Famed Apple designer Jony Ive’s asked these types of questions to the Apple designers when they thinking about a new computer. (After Steve by Tripp Mickle, 2022, page 70).

  • How do we want people to feel about this computer?
  • What part of our minds should it occupy?
  • How do we make something that looks novel but not threatening?

Another approach is to divide a group into two and have each group come up with a list of questions to a problem in say 10 minutes or so. Then they give the list of questions to the other group to answer.

Switch the questions is a powerful way to encourage minds to explore new possibilities.

It takes courage however to ask a naive question or one where you don’t know the answer but it’s the pathway to greater insight and growth.


Check out the 6 Switches Canvas. It’s simple, practical and free.