Visual Thinking Questions: Introduction

This is part one of a three part series that breaks down how to use visual thinking questions to help you solve problems more effectively. Below you will find the links to each article within this series:

Without a doubt the main key to visual thinking, creativity and innovation lies within the set of questions you continuously and persistently ask yourself as you make progress towards the generation of ideas and the solutions that will help you solve your problems most effectively. In fact, knowing the right questions to ask, is actually one of the fundamental keys that separates geniuses from everyone else.

The Genius of Asking the Right Question

While attending high school I wondered why some kids always achieved top grades while others always struggled. I assumed that it came down to a number of factors, however, it never crossed my mind that one of the main factors that separated the smartest students from the rest was their ability to ask the right kinds of questions — enabling them to solve the problems they were facing.

Who would’ve thought, that by simply asking a question, you can immediately raise your level of IQ through the roof. Obviously with the ability to ask the right question, you must also have the desire to find an answer. However, this usually comes naturally if you cultivate curiosity, set high standards and have a passion for the problem [see: visual thinking mindset].

If this works and makes sense on an academic level — helping students to achieve top grades, — then might it also be a good practice to apply effective questioning tactics to the visual thinking process?

Ask the Right Questions & Become a Visual Thinking Genius

When it comes to visual thinking, there’s a whole plethora of questions you could essentially be asking to help you gain new insights and generate unique perspectives.

Each problem and innovative pursuit is after all uniquely different, and therefore requires us to ask a different set of questions that are specific to the given project or task. However, for the purpose of this discussion, I’ll try to keep things as simple and generic as possible.

Let’s take a journey through the typical questions that a visual thinker would ask herself throughout the visual thinking process. These questions help her to identify the different elements of the problem that she faces, and eventually helps pave the way to breakthrough ideas, solutions and innovations.

16 Visual Thinking Question Categories

The following set of visual thinking questions have been divided into distinct categories. These categories have been adapted from a variety of sources. However, David Gray’s Q-tool was the main source of inspiration for formulating this list. Each category is designed to help focus your attention on questions with a specific purpose in mind.

Throughout the visual thinking process you may choose to move through each of these categories of questions in order as they are presented here, or simply choose an order that best fits the problem that you are trying to solve. You may even choose to skip some of these categories or apply all of them to your visual thinking problem. The choice is yours to make.

At a later time I will discuss how to combine specific categories of questions in an optimal way to help you find the solutions you are after.

As explained above, I’ve kept the question examples as generic as possible in order to help you apply them to any problem you might be facing. However, please keep in mind that these questions only scrape the surface of the different types and variety of questions you could potentially ask. Therefore, the questions may change and expand to meet the needs of your problem or situation, however, the question categories should always remain constant. As such, it’s recommended that you use these categories to build the foundations for your visual thinking and problem solving abilities.

I’m aware that there might very well be more categories of possible questions. This is a work in progress and I’m open to the possibilities. If you have any ideas, then please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below this post.

Here is a list of the Visual Thinking Question categories that will be discussed in the next two posts:

  1. Identification Questions
  2. Hindsight Questions
  3. Planning Questions
  4. Fact-finder Questions
  5. Clarification Questions
  6. Association Questions
  7. Sorting Questions
  8. Simplification Questions
  9. Hierarchical Questions
  10. Probing Questions
  11. Transformer Questions
  12. Coaching Questions
  13. Foresight Questions
  14. Strategic Questions
  15. Skeptical Questions
  16. Limiting Questions

l will discuss these 16 visual thinking question categories in parts two and three over the next couple of posts. Each question category works off the previous category to help you grasp an in-depth understanding of the problem you are facing.

Everything you read here is part of ongoing research and experimentation within the visual thinking arena. The goal is to create a comprehensive framework for visual thinking that encapsulates creativity, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Your comments, ideas and suggestions are most welcome.