This is a technique that groups can use to probe an individual to help broaden their perspective of a given topic.
Time needed: 4 minutes per participant
- A calm and comfortable space
- A4 paper
- Something to write with
- Split the participants into small groups of 4 to 5.
- Ask them all to reflect in silence on a topic or question they’d like the group’s help with, and to write it down on a sheet of A4 paper.
- Ask for a volunteer to reveal what they’ve written, and to explain the topic in one sentence.
E.g.: “I can’t decide if I should continue or abandon the project I’m currently working on.”
- The other participants then ask “what if” questions [4 minutes].
E.g.: “What if you were your manager, what would you do?”, “What if you had to make a decision right now?” “What if you had to wing it?” “What if you didn’t have a choice?” “What if there was no shadow of a doubt that whatever you did, the project would be a failure? A success?”
- The participant being questioned does not respond but takes note of all the questions, exactly as they are asked.
- At the end of the 4 minutes, another participant shares their question or topic and is then questioned by the others, and so on until everyone has had a turn.
To finish, each group goes round one by one and shares what they have taken away and what has helped them in relation to their original question.
- Advise everyone taking part in the “what if” shower to read all the questions through again once they are alone with a fresh mind. It’s by seriously addressing these questions, even the most far-fetched, that they’ll truly be able to see what new options they have in front of them.
- Stress to the participants that they mustn’t ‘hide” solutions within their questions: if they head straight to the conclusion, they’ll lose part of the benefit of the exercise, which is all about generating ideas.