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the good life in a digital age

ideas coaches – spark questions

Last week I took the first of the BBC’s new programme of creativity training courses, Ideas Coaches. The course was aimed at staff who wanted to help a team generate ideas, rather than necessarily be more creative themselves.

The part of the course that we found most powerful was the creation of ‘spark questions’ (apparently the BBC used to call these springboard questions, not sure why the change). We spent seemingly ages just crafting the questions we wanted to generate ideas for. Our initial questions were all dismissed as far too specific (meaning we’d already narrowed the range of possible solutions) and far too negative (meaning the group would be more depressed than inspired by the question). The latter point was interesting as I’ve often seen myself and some of my most talented colleagues descend into morose self-pitying rather than coming up with any ideas for solving our problems.

Most of the questions started with ‘how’ as this was deemed to suggest the solutions were actually out there. Some ended up pretty cryptic but you wouldn’t be using them entirely out of context:

“how can we stop the fighting and start the building”

“how can we take our place on the world stage”

“how can today’s best be sure to be tomorrow’s too”

We were skeptical of how well they could work when they have lost the original specificity (one is about kids TV programme, the last is about BBC website) but what they worked brilliantly for was producing completely off-field suggestions, things that the original problem-owner never even saw as being part of the picture. As course leader pointed out “what makes you assume that the future of the BBC website is to be a website at all?”

Written by Karen

October 2nd, 2007 at 12:53 am

Posted in inspiration,work