The “what would someone else suggest” technique

Today I ran a workshop on workshops and predictably one of the things we did was brainstorming.

But one of the participants was a little bit bored with putting post-it notes on the wall, so we replaced our standard brainstorming with “what would someone else do””.

This approach can work really well in either a coaching session or a workshop.

The idea is that if we already knew what to do about something there would be no issue and no need for coaching or a workshop. So rather than asking “what can we do” and being stuck with our usual thinking we ask “what would someone else do”.

For example, I might ask you to answer the following questions to shift your thinking:

  • What would you never do that someone else might try?
  • What would your parents do?
  • What would a leprechaun try?
  • If we just found out out competitor had solved that problem, what would they have done?
  • What would your evil twin do?
  • How would Buffy the Vampire Slayer deal with that?  What about Spike?
  • What would never work?
  • If you were back at school, what would your friends have told you to do?
  • What would you tell someone to do?
  • What would Homer Simpson never think to do?

The aim is actually to ask more than 7 odd ways of solving the problem that we would not normally think of doing.  The reason for trying more than 7 is that someone told me that the first few approaches we think of are often repeats of the same ones … plus 7 is a lucky number.

But in our workshop one of the crew was a more inventive.  This is what he did:

  • Break people into teams of two;
  • Allocate a fictional (or famous) person to each group;
  • Give people to brainstorm some suggestions their fictional person might come up with;
  • Share the ideas with the group; and
  • Ask people to state how they could combine different combinations of the suggestions to come up with something that is actually sensible.

It worked really well in the group.  The only improvement I thought might work well for next time was to consider using some deliberately different characters to find some extreme suggestions, for example:

  • One team be Santa Clause and the other Scrooge; or
  • One team be Britney Spears and the other my great grandma.

Try one of these approaches next time you are stuck for ideas and let me know if it works.

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