How to Facilitate the 'What If?' Innovation Technique - The Big Bang Partnership

How to Facilitate the ‘What If?’ Innovation Technique


How to Facilitate the ‘What If?’ Technique in Innovation Sprints and Workshops

In an age where disruptive innovation and technological advancements dominate the business world, the ‘What If?’ technique is a super useful tool for businesses to discover new opportunities and gain a competitive edge.

It’s part of the toolkit of any great innovation consultant. But, you can facilitate this systematic innovation technique in your own design sprints and workshops to create different scenarios, explore various avenues, engage team members, and foster innovative ideas.

Here’s how to facilitate the ‘What If?’ technique in your sprints and workshops.


What is the ‘What If?’ Technique?

The ‘What If?’ technique seeks to identify fresh ideas and creative thinking, helping business leaders, entrepreneurs and corporate innovators to take a new look at existing challenges and create innovative solutions. It’s ideal for the idea generation stage of your innovation process.

Use it in the brainstorming phase of your design sprints, business strategy, creative problem solving and innovation strategy workshops.

Because the ‘What If?’ creative question prompts team members to think of different ways to approach a problem. You can use it to shape various types of innovation, from incremental innovation and technology innovation, through to game-changing disruption.

Understanding the Power of Imagination in Innovation and Problem-Solving

Imagination and creative thinking are the key to unlocking innovation. They allow us to envision new possibilities and explore ideas that may seem impossible at first. By tapping into our imagination, we can break free from the constraints of conventional thinking and discover innovative solutions to complex problems.

The ‘What If?’ technique is all about harnessing the power of imagination. It encourages us to ask bold and thought-provoking questions that challenge the status quo. By asking ‘What if?’ questions, we can stretch our imagination and explore new ideas that we may have never considered before.

When we engage our imagination, we activate different parts of our brain that are responsible for creative thinking. This allows us to approach problems from a fresh perspective and come up with innovative solutions that can transform our businesses or personal projects.

Dictionary page, zoomed in on the word 'imagination'

Benefits of Using the ‘What If?’ Technique

The ‘What If?’ technique offers numerous benefits when it comes to generating innovative ideas. Here are some of the key advantages:

Breakthrough Thinking

By asking ‘What If?’ questions, we break free from conventional thinking patterns and open ourselves up to new possibilities. This can lead to breakthrough ideas that can revolutionize our industries or solve complex problems.

Uncover Hidden Opportunities

The ‘What If?’ method helps us uncover hidden opportunities that may have been overlooked. By challenging assumptions and exploring alternative scenarios, we can identify new avenues for growth and innovation.

Enhanced Problem-Solving

When we use the ‘What If’ technique, we approach problems from a fresh perspective. This allows us to think creatively and come up with unique solutions that may not have been apparent before.

Increased Adaptability

A relentless focus on innovation is vital to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Industry giants and new entrants alike always need to be updating their new product development, proprietary technology, business models, and value creation. The “What If?” method is an outstanding creative technique for generating ideas and possibilities quickly. You can use it to find new ways to tap into latent market demand, spot new product and service development opportunities, rethink marketing campaigns, and much more.

Examples of Great ‘What If?’ Questions

To give you some ideas and help you get going, here are some examples of great ‘What If?’ questions:

  1. What if we could redesign our entire business model to align with the principles of circular economy, where waste is minimized, and resources are reused and recycled? How would this transformation affect our supply chain, customer relationships, and overall brand image, and what steps would we need to take to achieve this vision?
  2. What if we could cut our production costs in half without sacrificing quality? How could that change our pricing strategy, and what impact would it have on our market share?
  3. What if our competitors joined forces against us? How would we respond, and what strategies could we develop to maintain our competitive edge?
  4. What if we expanded our business into a completely new industry or geographical market? What opportunities and challenges would we face, and what resources would we need?
  5. What if we were to implement a four-day workweek for our employees? How might this affect productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall business performance?
  6. What if a major technological advancement made our core product or service obsolete overnight? How would we adapt, and what could we do to stay ahead of the curve?
  7. What if new legislation dramatically impacted our industry, either positively or negatively? How would we need to adapt, and what opportunities or threats could this create?

Guide to Facilitating the ‘What If?’ Technique

To harness the power of the ‘What If’ technique, it’s important to follow a structured approach. Here are some practical tips and strategies to help you use the ‘What If’ technique effectively:

1. Define Your Problem or Goal: Start by clearly defining the problem or goal you want to address. This will provide you with a clear focus and help you generate relevant ‘What if?’ questions.

2. Ask Challenging Questions: Challenge conventional thinking by asking bold and thought-provoking ‘What If?’ questions. Don’t be afraid to explore radical ideas or consider scenarios that seem impossible.

3. Explore Different Perspectives: To stimulate your imagination, try looking at the problem from different perspectives. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers, employees, or even completely unrelated industries. This can help you uncover unique insights and generate innovative ideas.

4. Embrace Uncertainty: The ‘What If?’ technique thrives on uncertainty. Embrace the unknown and be open to exploring uncharted territories. This is where breakthrough ideas often emerge.

5. Combine Ideas: Don’t limit yourself to one ‘What If?’ question. Combine different ideas and scenarios to create even more innovative possibilities. Sometimes, the most groundbreaking ideas come from the intersection of seemingly unrelated concepts.

6. Prototype and Test: Once you have generated a range of innovative ideas, it’s time to screen, prototype and test them. This will help you validate your ideas and determine their feasibility. Remember, innovation is an iterative process, so be prepared to refine and improve your ideas based on feedback.

Overcoming Common Challenges When Using the ‘What If’ Technique

While the ‘What If’ technique is a powerful tool for innovation, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some common challenges you may encounter and how to overcome them:

1. Fear of Failure: When asking bold ‘What if?’ questions, the fear of failure can hold us back. To overcome this, create a safe and supportive environment where failure is seen as a learning opportunity. Encourage your team to embrace experimentation and take calculated risks.

2. Resistance to Change: People are often resistant to change, especially when it challenges the status quo. To overcome resistance, communicate the benefits of the ‘What If’ technique and show how it can lead to growth and innovation. Engage your team in the process and make them feel empowered to contribute their ideas.

3. Lack of Time and Resources: Innovation requires time and resources. To overcome this challenge, allocate dedicated time for ‘What If’ brainstorming sessions and provide the necessary resources to support the ideation process. Encourage collaboration and create a culture that values innovation.

The ‘What If?’ technique is not just a popular offering but a fundamental tool for innovation strategy. It’s a useful technique to have in your facilitation toolkit to help your clients with incremental innovation, disruptive change, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. From inspiring creative ideas to reshaping entire industries, this method is an indispensable asset in today’s ever-changing business landscape. By focusing on value creation, alignment with best practices, and engagement with cutting-edge company culture, you can help your business clients to thrive, innovate, and lead.

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