Three Magic Questions

In an era where creativity and original thought are the currency of success, three simple questions will lead you to more (and more astounding) breakthroughs. Tape these to the walls, make them into a screensaver, and tattoo them on your teammates:

1. Why?
2. What if?
3. Why not?

Most of us have become trained to avoid challenging authority, especially at work, so we fail to ask these basic yet powerful questions. To encourage fresh thinking, ask them constantly and make them part of your daily routine. In the same way you bring a pen and paper to every meeting, bring these questions to drive curiosity and awareness, which are the building blocks of creativity.

These simple questions will attack business problems of any size and discover new and imaginative solutions. Asking ‘‘Why?’’ helps you understand the current state of affairs in order to challenge the status quo and conventional wisdom. When you ask ‘‘What if?’’, you are exploring fresh possibilities and imagining how the world would look if you made a change or if a new idea came to life. Asking ‘‘Why not?’’ helps you to understand the limiting factors that are currently blocking positive change (so you can smash them like a rotting banana).

Questioning existing norms and challenging yourself and your team to explore the possibilities will uncover your true creative potential. Apply these questions—Why? What if? and Why not?—liberally and frequently in as many settings as possible. Yes, you will annoy a few bureaucrats, but you will also tap into an endless supply of imagination. I’ll take that trade-off all day long.