Looking for new solutions? Ask new questions. Here’s how.

When new questions are asked, new solutions often result because what hadn’t been thought of becomes the focus of attention. Challenging assumptions to ask new questions is one of many techniques used to crack open new thinking. An easy way to learn how to do this is to examine your assumptions about day-to-day life. Questioning what you believe to be true frees you to consider new and different solutions.

Free Range Studios (Creativity with a Conscience)  with Annie Leonard and crew have a series of videos available from their  The Story of Stuff Project that highlight assumptions many of us make about things we buy. You can use these as an exercise to try questioning assumptions on for size.

Annie’s style is simple and straightforward.  It’s hard not to get the message about how the world currently works from her point of view.

Use this video as to learn how to challenge assumptions

  • As you watch it this 8 minute clip, pay attention your observations, thoughts, feelings and ideas
  • After it’s done, write these down in the form of questions, for example, how might I or how to… without concern about if they are right or wrong, good or bad, or too simple. When deliberately using creative thinking, all observations, inklings, questions and ideas are welcome
  • Let the list sit for awhile, maybe for an hour or a day, make sure to come back to it.  On its second viewing, add other insights, ideas and questions, then..
  • Choose one or two to answer.  Make sure the question (s) you select are new ones for you
  • Begin generating new ideas to generate new solutions from which you’ll use to make some new decisions

We lead exercises like these to help people get to know what it’s like to challenge assumptions before they using the technique for their business.  What’s fascinating is that it’s rare for two team members to have the same questions.  How we work with that dynamic is the topic of another post.


Watching these videos will provide you with inspiration for generating new ideas and making new decisions to create a more preferable future.  Your kids will like them too.

Story of Stuff (21:25)

Story of Bottled Water (8:04)

Story of Cap & Trade (9:56)


  • What happened when you did this exercise?
  • What did it remind you of?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • What advice would you give to others about questioning assumptions?
  • What would happen if you used this new thinking technique on a real situation for which you are looking for new solutions?
  • Where in the real world might you use this deliberate creativity approach?
  • What other resources might be easily available for people to use to practice this creative thinking technique?

Let me know what questions you have about this and other deliberate creativity approaches, what concerns do you have?  We can overcome the obstacles together.

About The Story of Stuff Project, from their website storyofstuff.org
The Story of Stuff Project’s mission is to build a strong, diverse, decentralized, cross-sector movement to transform systems of production and consumption to serve ecological sustainability and social wellbeing. Our goals are to amplify public discourse on a diverse set of sustainability issues and to facilitate the growing Story of Stuff community’s involvement in strategic efforts to build a more sustainable and just world.
The Story of Stuff Project was founded in June 2008 by Annie Leonard to leverage the remarkable success of The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute web-film that explores the often hidden environmental and social consequences of America’s love affair with its stuff. Currently, the film has been viewed over 10 million times on-line and in thousands of schools, houses of worship, community centers and businesses around the world. Our Project’s focus is on systems of production and consumption—in particular the harmful environmental and social impacts of current modes of producing, consuming and disposing of material goods. Our Project is systems-focused, solutions-oriented and change-driven.

About marcisegal

Founder, World Creativity and Innovation Day, April 21. Speaker,
This entry was posted in creative thinking, Here's how, new ideas and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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