How to formulate the right questions, when developing a project ?
The topic of today is to learn to formulate the right questions when applying the Design Thinking process, which means when developing a product/service in a collaborative way. Remember that those questions are shaped differently depending on their utility. In other words, you do not ask the same questions if you are in the “empathize” phase, or during the “prototype” one (same reasoning for the other steps). You will then need to re-create each time the appropriate questionnaire to judiciously complete the Design Thinking. This might seem to be a hassle and boring approach, yet taking the time needed to formulate all your questions will allow you to better understand your clients, as well as gather precious data that could be useful at any time.
Since a young age, we learn to answer questions, yet not to formulate them. Indeed, at school we usually need to resolve issues and create answers, but not really to conceive the right questioning that helps finding the answers (this one is already defined). However, when working on a project it is crucial to ask yourself the right questions, in order to provide the perfectly-suited product/service to your clients. For instance, if you have finalised your project without the feedbacks of your potential clients, you will not know if your product answers the needs of your customers, or if it just answers yours.
Rule for a good Question
For a question to be pertinent, it needs to be simple, clear and precise. Furthermore, it should have an impact on the reality of the targeted individuals, which will allow you to obtain honest and useful answers. To that end, include values, hopes and ideals in the questions you elaborate. On the other hand, your questionnaire does not have to only focus on the solution you are proposing. Broader answers lead to the discovery of unexpected things about your interlocutor. In other words, asking the right questions will enable you to identify exactly the needs your clients have.
An efficient question :
- generates the interest of your interviewer
- offer a complete and well-developed answer
- is thought-provoking
- fosters creativity and the creation of new possibilities
- is clearly understood by the interrogator
- engenders other questions
- emits underlying assumptions
- has a deep meaning
When structuring your questions, be sure to use the appropriate interrogative words, as the answer can then drastically differ. Moreover, although it is important to develop open questions, insure that those are not too long and blurred (or the opposite). It means that if a question offers a too broad answer, you might loose the focus on the objective you want. Finally, be assured that your questions are not confusing. If they are unclear, your interlocutor might misunderstand it and perceive it as rude or disrespectful, which is obviously not the objective behind.
Develop correctly the question
To shape the right questions, regarding a defined theme, you need to :
- analyse carefully the situation, and how it will evolve in the future.
- identify the general questions, which will help to head over the right direction at the beginning.
- refine your questions to keep only the most pertinent ones in the current project.
- think long term, so compose questions with answers that will help elaborate strategies for the long run.
- constantly ask yourself questions, as you will then be able to always be on top of your project.
Knowing to ask the right questions is primordial, yet not so impactful without a good capability of listening. When you have developed your questionnaire, be attentive to the answers you get and accept even the most unexpected ones. Give also the time to your interviewer to express themselves (they are the focus of your attention) and carefully take notes of all what is said.
If problems appear from the right beginning of the project, you should consider finding the origin of those. To clarify them, you can use the empirical questioning method .
This approach can be used during collective decision-making, where we need to illustrate each question. The book “faire” clearly explains this process, for exemple when analysing the question “how?”. In that case, to represent a sequence of steps you can use a flowchart.
For this last chapter, we share with you exemples of questions, which might give you some ideas :
- What could happen, that would allow us to create a better synergy and more dynamism at work ?
- What challenges could occur and how could we take them up ?
- What would someone with different opinion and believes think ?
- What is the primary purpose of our company ?