When faced with a major business challenge, getting your team in a room together to devise a solution could produce a "groupthink" mentality you'd want to avoid at all costs. Since your employees look to you as the leader, it could only take a thought-provoking question or two to break through what's preventing you all from coming to a head.

Ten entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share the questions they ask to get their team thinking in a way that will generate better ideas and unique perspectives on the task at hand.

1. How would a great company solve this problem?

One way to have members think outside the box is to have them pretend they are members of a very successful company with a distinct culture, and ask them how that company would solve the problem. This type of constraint can be a fun way to have people think of the problem from different perspectives and hopefully come up with more creative solutions.--Charlie Graham, Shop It To Me, Inc.

2. What's the no-tech solution?

Many business problems have been solved with an app or a piece of software, but is it worth the investment? It's often better to develop a low-tech or even no-tech solution first, work out the kinks and then have the knowledge to know if you really need an enterprise-grade system. You'll be amazed at how seemingly large problems are resolved by imposing constraints and encouraging creativity.--David Ciccarelli, Voices.com

3. How would you approach this?

It's never a bad idea to get a second opinion on figuring out the best way to tackle a problem or coming up with a better solution. Often, when you take a step back, or ask a staff member what they think, you are allowing for a fresh approach and some ownership of the problem for your staff. Sometimes all it takes is someone who is out of the bubble to see the solution immediately and solve it.--Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC

4. If you were me, what would you do?

Put them in the driver's seat by asking them openly what they would do. This question implies that you trust their leadership and decision-making skills. This will put them at ease to come up with their best idea, rather than take a timid approach to avoid looking incompetent.--Andy Karuza, brandbuddee

5. What is your solution based upon?

When someone comes into my office and he or she says, "I think we should do 'X' or 'Y,'" unless it's clear how the answer was crystallized, I always ask, pointedly, "Based on what?" The answer should be at the front of their lips. Doing something just to do it is never a good reason, and it is usually costly. The team member should be prepared to articulate why they believe their solution would work.--Derek Hunter, William Roam

6. Has anyone else come across this?

Almost every problem out there is recorded online now, and I try to condition my team members to research as the default first step. Even if we don't find the right answers, sometimes we can find a good discussion that at least gives us insight into other possible solutions.--Matt Doyle, Excel Builders

7. What's the quickest route?

We often come up with complex solutions to simple problems, and might not even realize it. That's why the team at LexION Capital is always trying to find the quickest route from point A to point B. You should work backwards -- find the quickest end to the problem, and then fit the pieces together to get it done.--Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital

8. What is your vision for this project?

What is your vision for this project? How would you solve it? Asking them questions like this gives them ownership and allows them to speak more freely. This also gives you another perspective on the project aside from your own. It is important to approach problems from multiple angles.--Jayna Cooke, EVENTup

9. If you could change anything about the situation, what would it be?

This is a great question because it encourages the employee to search for the root of the problem (or what they perceive it to be). Get the employee to tell you more about what they want to change, and ask them how much of their ideal changes are within their power to do. They'll be inspired to search for alternatives because they imagined themselves with the absolute power to improve the problem.--Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

10. What would you do if you were our customer?

Ask your team members to step into the shoes and mindsets of your target market customers, and ask them what they would do, how they would feel or what actions they would take with certain solutions to the problem at hand. This kind of questioning not only allows team members to be creative and think outside of the box, but it brings in outsider opinions and helps to see all sides of the equation.--Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com

Published on: Oct 26, 2015
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