Normally brainstorming is all about generating ideas as fast as you can, not judging them as they come up (write them all down), and later assessing which ones are worth pursuing.
A different approach is catching on, according to an article at Fastdesign.com: generating questions.
Let's say you want to come up with ideas for how to overcome your habit of procrastinating.
In the usual brainstorming approach you'd come up with a lot of possible solutions:
- setting up rewards for when I do my work on time
- setting up punishments for when I procrastinate
- getting an app that keeps me off social media for specific period of time
- chunking down my tasks into smaller pieces
In the questioning approach, you'd come up with lots of related questions:
- what do I get from procrastinating?
- when did I start procrastinating?
- when don't I procrastinate?
- what's different about those times from the times I do?
- who is a good role model for not procrastinating?
- what motivates people who don't procrastinate?
- what kinds of tasks do I procrastinate on?
As with ideas, don't judge the questions, write them all down.
HARVEST THE MOST USEFUL QUESTIONS
The let some time go by, at least a couple of hours, and move to a different location than the one where you generated the questions (even if it's just across the room).
Go through and mark the questions that you feel are most useful--that is, the ones that would help you most if you could answer them.
At this stage, don't worry if you don't know the answers. Go with your gut as much as with your brain.
ANSWER THE MOST USEFUL QUESTIONS
With your list of the potentially most useful questions, write down the answers that come to mind. These may lead to additional questions (and answers).
If you don't know, consider who might help you. For example, if you're not sure what you procrastinate about the most, I'm guessing your spouse, partner, or work colleague will be only too glad to help.
If all else fails, guess. Your intuition often is your best guide.
APPLY THE ANSWERS
It's likely that the answers to the questions will lead to some specific ideas for dealing with the challenge.
Try them out, one by one. If one doesn't work, before you give up on it try another question session with queries like these:
- Why isn't this working?
- What could make it more powerful?
- Is any part of it working?
- What does the failure of this method reveal to me about myself?
Even if you find brainstorming the usual way to be productive (as I do), it's worth trying this alternative.