Asking Powerful Questions

Where do you get your inspiration from?  How do you like it delivered to you?  I like clever, thought provoking and circuit breaking pieces that make me pause and think.  In recent years we've been designing and working with ‘powerful questions', the kind which often provoke more questions than they answer.  They enable in-depth discussion and exploration of important issues.  The Art of Powerful Questions was developed by Eric Vogt, Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, two well known through The World Café ( 

Over the years we have seen increased use of powerful questions as a tool to provoke new thinking and conversations full of possibility.  Recently, I was delighted to see IDEO, the well known and innovative design company in the US had developed a set of Patterns, design insights emerging and converging which are available on their website  They have produced a list of patterns, with evidence or stories from around the globe and a powerful question at the end. They also provide a list of ideas to take action.

One of the patterns I enjoyed is Re-framing Behaviour, which highlights the need to have the right mental model for sustainable change.  The powerful questions they ask include:

  1. What if behaviour change were described in terms of pleasure rather than pain?  What if behaviour change tools unleashed our innate desires and encouraged small, first steps?
  2. What tools might help people understand dynamic change as a fact of modern life?  Can we design tools that help people view lean times as part of a life well lived?

To take action they suggest moving:

  1. From should to want
  2. From steady state to dynamic
  3. From default to deliberate
  4. From outsourcing to ownership

All nicely put, and succinct.  Hopefully I've whetted your appetite and you'll go have a look for yourself.