Question Storming Before Brainstorming: Discover the Right Problem to Solve

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In the world of design thinking, creativity and innovation thrive when you unleash the full potential of your curious mind. One remarkable technique that harnesses this power of curiosity is question storming.

Like the brainstorming process, question storming encourages participants to generate many questions rather than immediate solutions. Delving into a relentless pursuit of inquiries, you unlock fresh perspectives, challenge assumptions, and explore uncharted territories.

When you rush to find quick solutions (brainstorming) without fully understanding the problem at hand, you end up creating more problems than you solve. This is where question storming comes to the rescue.

Instead of jumping straight to answers, question storming encourages us to take a step back and ask a bunch of questions about the problem. By doing this, we get a clearer picture of what’s really going on, and we can identify the root cause of the issue. It’s like using a magnifying glass to see the tiny details that we might have missed before.

Once we know the right problem to solve, finding the best solution becomes so much easier and more effective. It’s time to slow down, storm those questions, and set the stage for solving problems. 

Question Storming vs. Brainstorming

Question storming and brainstorming are both ideation techniques. They are used to generate creative solutions. However, they differ in their approach and emphasis.

While brainstorming focuses on generating as many ideas as possible, question storming centers around asking numerous questions related to a problem or challenge. Question storming works better because it encourages deeper exploration of the issue at hand. It challenges assumptions and uncovers hidden insights.

By relentlessly questioning the problem space, team members gain a clearer understanding of the underlying issues. Consequently, this allows them to arrive at the right problems to solve before diving into potential solutions. This method fosters a more thoughtful and targeted approach, leading to more effective and innovative solutions in the end.

During a UX research session, the team engaged in question storming to generate inquiries about users’ preferences, pain points, and expectations when interacting with a mobile banking app.

In a brainstorming session for the mobile banking app, the development team generated innovative ideas to improve the user experience. They discussed ideas such as introducing a biometric login option, integrating a personalized budgeting tool, and implementing a real-time customer support chat feature.

Different Question Asking Techniques

Question storming is a technique used to generate a wide range of questions. It explores various possibilities during the problem-solving process. This is why encouraging participants to ask diverse and creative questions is important.  It helps to uncover new insights and potential solutions. 

Unlike brainstorming, where the focus is on generating a large number of ideas quickly, question storming emphasizes the quality and depth of questions asked. People often need prompts during question storming to ask good questions.

Question prompts help nudge curiosity, shift mindset, break patterns and overcome the fear of judgment. 

There are several question styles to choose from to create your prompt list. Stick to one or mix and match a couple of different types. But don’t overdo it. Choose prompts that best fit what you’re trying to accomplish. 

Open-ended Questions

These questions have no single correct answer and encourage participants to explore various perspectives and possibilities. They often begin with “What if…,” “How might we…,” or “In what ways…”.  Here are a few examples concerning mobile app development. 

  • How might we enhance the user onboarding experience to make it more intuitive and engaging for new users of the mobile app?
  • In what ways can we optimize the navigation and information architecture to ensure users can effortlessly find what they need within the mobile app?
  • What features or functionalities do users find most valuable, and how can we leverage those insights to further improve the mobile app’s user experience?
  • How might we address common pain points or obstacles users encounter when using the app, and what innovative solutions can we implement to overcome these challenges?
  • What are the key aspects that make our mobile app stand out from competitors, and how can we further leverage these strengths to deliver a unique and memorable user experience?

These open-ended questions encourage exploration and allow for diverse perspectives on how to improve the user experience of the mobile app. They prompt participants to think creatively and critically, leading to valuable insights and innovative solutions.

Challenge Questions

These questions challenge assumptions and the status quo. They may start with phrases like “Why do we do it this way?” “What is preventing us from…?,” or “What if we did the opposite of…?”

  • Why do we assume our current approach is the best solution? What other possibilities have we overlooked?
  • What barriers or obstacles are preventing us from achieving our goals, and how can we overcome them?
  • How might we address this problem from the perspective of the end-user, considering their needs, desires, and pain points?
  • What if we completely reimagined the user experience? How could we create a radically different and more delightful experience?
  • What would happen if we took the opposite approach to what we’ve been doing so far? How might that lead to new insights?

Exploratory Questions

These questions aim to understand the problem or situation better and gather insights. They begin with “Tell me more about…,” “What are the factors contributing to…?,” or “Can you describe…?”.

1. What are the primary user goals and needs that our mobile app should address? How can we ensure these are at the forefront of our design decisions?

2. How might we conduct user research and gather feedback to gain a deeper understanding of user behaviors, preferences, and pain points within the context of mobile app usage?

3. In what ways can we explore emerging design trends and best practices in mobile app interfaces to ensure our design remains fresh and up-to-date?

4. What innovative ways can we leverage mobile-specific features (e.g., touch gestures, location services) to enhance user interactions and create a seamless and enjoyable mobile experience?

5. How might we collaborate with developers and other stakeholders early in the design process to ensure feasibility and alignment between design vision and technical implementation?

These exploratory questions encourage the UX team to delve into the user’s perspective. They can now explore design possibilities, and consider the technical aspects of their work. By seeking to understand the users the team can create a mobile app that truly meets user needs and delivers an outstanding user experience.

Beautiful Questions

A “beautiful question” is a concept popularized by Warren Berger, an innovation expert and author of the book A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.”

Beautiful questions are deep, thought-provoking, and often open-ended inquiries that inspire curiosity, creativity, and new perspectives. These questions challenge conventional thinking, encourage exploration, and prompt meaningful conversations.

  1. What does it mean to create a user experience that touches hearts and leaves a lasting impact?
  1. How might we design a digital space that fosters genuine connections and a sense of belonging among users?
  1. What if we approached each design challenge as an opportunity to make the world a more beautiful and meaningful place?
  1. How can we infuse our UX designs with empathy and compassion, understanding the diverse needs and emotions of our users?
  1. What does it feel like to experience our product or service from a user’s perspective, and how can we make it an unforgettable journey?

In the context of various disciplines like design thinking beautiful questions play a crucial role in inspiring creativity. They encourage a spirit of inquiry and a willingness to explore new ideas. Ultimately they lead to breakthroughs and meaningful discoveries.

Empathy Questions

By empathizing with users, designers can create more intuitive and user-centric experiences. Empathy addresses real-life challenges and fosters a stronger connection with the audience. Ultimately, empathy in UX ensures that designs are not just visually appealing but also deeply resonate with users. This leads to increased satisfaction, loyalty, and the success of the product or service.

1. How do users feel when using similar mobile apps, and what aspects do they find frustrating or enjoyable?

2. What are the main challenges and pain points users encounter in their daily lives that our mobile app could potentially address or alleviate?

3. Can you share a specific instance where a user’s experience with a mobile app made a significant impact on their life or helped them achieve a particular goal?

4. How might we better understand the diverse backgrounds and abilities of our users to create a more inclusive and accessible mobile app experience for everyone?

5. What are some common scenarios or use cases in which users would interact with our mobile app, and how can we ensure our design meets their unique needs and expectations?

By empathizing with the users, the team can design a product that truly resonates with its audience and delivers a user experience that exceeds expectations.

Steps of Question Storming Session

Question storming is a really fun activity. It effectively incorporates into a design thinking workshop or quick team session.  Don’t be intimidated by it. The beauty of it is there are no right or wrong questions! Here are the standard practices for conducting a session.

  • Gather a diverse group of participants (cross-functional team) to bring varied perspectives.
  • Clearly define the problem or challenge to focus the session.
  • Set a time limit to ensure a productive and focused session.
  • Encourage participants to generate as many questions as possible related to the problem.
  • Avoid judging or evaluating questions during the session.
  • Use prompts or stimuli to trigger more questions if the flow slows down.
  • Record all questions on a board or shared document for everyone to see (sticky notes, MIro).
  • After the session, review and categorize the questions to identify patterns and insights.
  • Use the questions to gain a deeper understanding of the problem and guide the next steps in the creative process.

Follow these easy steps of question storming to spur creative ideas for those knowledge gaps that are slowing your team down.

Conclusion

In conclusion, question storming is a powerful technique in design thinking workshops that focuses on generating a wide array of thought-provoking questions to uncover underlying problems.

Unlike brainstorming, which primarily aims to generate ideas, question storming fosters a deeper understanding of the challenges at hand by encouraging participants to ask open-ended, exploratory questions. 

This approach is more effective than brainstorming as it prompts critical thinking, sparks creativity, and enables teams to identify the root causes of issues. By leveraging question storming, teams can gain valuable insights and address problems more strategically. Ultimately, leading to more successful and user-centric outcomes.

Written by Amanda Julander

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