Are your team meetings, project meetings, or 1on1s with your employees getting too dull and predictable? Are they lacking energy or new ideas? Are you looking to get your employees to think, open up, and inspire a little creativity and out-of-the-box problem solving? Are people hesitant to bring up problems? Are you getting blank stares when you ask for improvement ideas?
Maybe you’re not asking the right questions. Uninspired questions lead to uninspired answers.
Give these a try, from the 1997 book by Dick Whitney and Melissa Giovagnoli,
75 Cage-Rattling Questions (to change the way you work):
1. What would our company/team be like if your mother ran it?
2. You’ve just received $10 million to help our company grow and prosper; how would you spend it?
3. What would appear bizarre, shocking, or amazing to a Martian visiting you at work?
4. What would our company be like if you never worked here?
5. What incredible invention would make your job much easier and you much more productive?
6. What unwritten rules at work make it difficult to get things done quickly, efficiently, or profitably?
7. Why and when does our organization make you feel that the information you need is top secret and you’re a poor security risk?
8. What’s your idea of a utopian workplace?
9. If our company was a football team, what would be our strongest and weakest positions?
10. If you could trade work skills the way kids swap baseball cards, who would you trade with and for what skills?
11. If Hollywood made a movie based on our organization, what would be the plot? Which stars would you cast as the heroes and villains?
12. If your crystal ball told you our products and services would be obsolete in the next 5 years, how would you react?
13. What is the most likely reason someone would want to join our company; what is the most likely reason someone would leave it?
14. You (or your department) are under an evil spell cast by a witch; who is the witch, what is the spell, and what words were uttered to cast it?
15. Pretend our organization is an organized religion. What are the core beliefs? What constitutes a sin?
Disclaimer: Please only ask these questions if you are truly committed to listening non-defensively and making improvements. They are designed to get people to open up in a way that they normally would not. If you come across as offended or shocked at what people say, or try to convince them their answers are “wrong”, the next thing you’ll hear is the sound of crickets chirping in a silent room.
If you can handle the truth and have the courage to shake it up, then fire away and get ready for some lively discussion!
Here's one final question for you:
What other questions could we add to the list?