I like to make time to think about a situation without rushing to action. Since the latter is my natural tendency, I benefit from having a simple framework that lowers barriers to entering brainstorming mode, which I’ll outline in this post.
Setting the stage
- What topic are you brainstorming on?
- What’s the goal? What are the potential benefits?
- How much time will you dedicate to this? When will you stop?
In no particular order, except for the first one. Liberally skip any question that doesn’t elicit useful thinking.
- Meta: What are some questions you could ask yourself about this topic? Add those to the list.
- What are the individual steps? Why is each step performed?
- What are the limiting steps? How can you work around them?
- What would this look like if it were easy?
- What metrics can you use to find out if you’re on track? How can you install these metrics in your digital and physical workspace?
- Where does this process need monitoring and gate-keeping?
- What are the worst things that could happen? What could go most wrong? What do you want to avoid?
- What if you did nothing at all?
- What are the second-order effects?
- What are the critical/foundational assumptions? How can you verify them?
- Where are you uncertain and expect additional information to be valuable? How can you collect this information?
- Who is an expert at this? How can you get their input?
- What’s the minimum effective dose to get the desired results?
- What would you do to achieve your goal with only 10% of current inputs?
- How can you increase the leverage of your efforts? What do you need to stop doing?
- How can you make yourself redundant?
- What if you could only subtract to solve problems?
- Would you be worried if the details were made public? If yes, why?
- What would your successor do?