Answers stop thinking – and what you can do about it

When we are convinced that we have the right answer, we tend to stop thinking. In the process, we may end up overlooking some of our best ideas. Here's what to do about it.

When we are convinced that we have the right answer, we tend to stop thinking. We tend to stop asking ouselves “What if?” and “Why?” In the process, we may end up overlooking some of our best ideas. Here’s what to do about it.

Most of us are conditioned by schooling and work experience to believe that each question has one, and only one, right answer. In reality, most of the challenges we face today are more complex. There are probably many possible solutions, some more effective and others less so.

According to Laura Ramey and Gary Meegan, writing in their blog, CriticalClassroom.org, “The problem is that questions generate thinking, while answers stop thinking in its tracks. Only through questions do our minds truly think.”

What that means is that when we come up with one very good idea, we need to push past this tendency and continue brainstorming ideas for at least another 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure to record everything that comes to mind – your job at this stage of the game is to generate as many ideas as possible. Evaluation of ideas comes later.

Another effective strategy, implied in the quote from Ramey and Meegan, is to utilize open-ended questions as a catalyst to spur your thinking. Some valuable ideation questions include:

  • In what ways might I… ?
  • What things would I do if there were no limitations?
  • In what ways have other people, professions or industries solved similar problems?

Notice that all three of these questions have been framed to encourage multiple answers.

Another reason to keep pushing for more ideas, for more than one “right answer:” Many creativity experts say that you must get the top-of-mind ideas, which tend to be more obvious and ordinary solutions, out of your brain before the deeper, more valuable insights can emerge.  

The bottom line is to invest more time and effort to generate more ideas. You’ll be glad you did!

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