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.