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Brainstorming Questions instead of Answers

  • Which questions, if answered, would make this problem much easier?
  • What kind of evidence would be relevant to someone making decisions about this?
  • What kind of clarifying questions would an expert ask if you were describing this problem to them?
  • Are there preexisting sets of questions/checklists for this problem domain?
  • Which tests do we have available and what kind of questions do they answer?
  • What questions could we ask clients/stakeholders?
  • What are some simple/bad ways to solve this problem and can they be improved?

Conversational Prompts

  • What part of this problem seems most relevant to you?
  • What part do you find yourself unusually attentive to?
  • How can we find out where our models of the problem overlap?
  • How can we find out where our models make different predictions? Can we bet?
  • Journalist questions: who, what, where, why, when, how.

Reframing the Problem

  • What metaphors does the problem description rely on? What if we used different ones?
  • What if we permuted some of the words in the problem description with a thesaurus?
  • What if the problem turned out to be easy?
  • What lucky fluke would lead to you getting what you want? Can we make any of those more likely?
  • How would you solve the problem with arbitrary power? What are the desiderata it would satisfy if there were no tradeoffs?
  • What situations does this remind me of?
  • What would someone awesome do to prepare for a serious effort at solving the problem?
  • Is there a smaller/toy version of the problem you can solve for practice?
  • Have you tried sharpening the problem without looking for a solution?
  • Have you tried granularizing more?
  • Have you tried dumping your thought cache and approaching the problem in open mode?
  • Have you tried filling your attention with the problem?
  • Have you tried propagating constraints from the object level?
  • Give 3 concrete examples, give 3 counter examples.
  • Map the idea space instead of trying to solve the problem.
  • Describe the problem instead of explaining it.
  • What do all my efforts to solve the problem so far have in common? What am I not changing enough?
  • Have you tried rubber ducking impressive people?
  • Have you tried actually trying to solve the problem?

Therapeutic/Affective Prompts

  • What if I woke up and the problem was solved? How would I know? What would be different?
  • What if it were happening to someone else?
  • What if I'm not responsible?
  • What if I took a step back from it?
  • Do I have any limiting beliefs around this problem?
    • Hopelessness: the problem is impossible
    • Helplessness: the problem is impossible for me in particular
    • Worthlessness: I don't deserve the problem being solved
  • How is that (problematic behavior in someone else) also true of me?
  • Is that belief true? How would I know if it wasn't?
  • Where did that belief come from?
  • Is that belief serving me?
  • Is this framing of the problem helping me find solutions?
  • What are different ways of framing this problem? (see above)
  • What is (this problem) really about?
  • How is maintaining this problem serving me?
  • How do I actually feel in the moment this problem arises?
  • What notes of discord arise when I say 'everything about X is going perfectly'?
  • Do I genuinely feel curious about the problem?

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