How to Use 'What If' Questions
Systematically asking good questions is a fun activity, whether
you do it alone or as a game with others. It also provides some
good mental exercise, and it can lead to some great theories
and inventions. Let's look at a few examples of how you can do
this as a way to give your brain a workout and for generating
creative new ideas.
The process can be as simple as this: Start the questions,
anywhere and anytime. Turn on the television, for example, and
watch the news while asking what if questions. When a
report on unemployment comes on, you might ask, "What if
there was no unemployment?" "What if unemployment was
a good thing?" "What if everyone was unemployed?"
Each of these questions suggests different ideas: Could there
be almost no unemployment? Maybe a government could guarantee
employment by hiring anyone who loses their job, but at wages
just low enough so the employees would eventually find a way
to work in the private sector again. Hiring people in place of
the usual more expensive employees could make this viable as
far as the cost goes.
Could unemployment be good? It might provide the time necessary
to take an intense training course that prepares one for a better
job in the future. Or it could be an opportunity to start a business
that requires more time than capital. In either case this makes
unemployment a good thing.
Why would everyone be unemployed? Technically there would
be no jobs if we all were in the business of selling our
labor. If we were paid as business owners -- even for typical
work like waiting on tables -- it could change our thinking and
make us all more independent. We might all be unemployed (by
others) but more productive than ever.
By the way, as I have mentioned in the newsletter more than
once, I really do use these techniques, and they have paid me
well. An e-book I wrote wasn't selling well, and I asked "What
if I gave it away?" I won't get into the details of what
I did next, but I did start giving it away and soon I was making
three times as much money with it as when I was selling it.
When you ask a "what if" question your mind gets
to work find a way to make sense of what you are asking. So if
you ask, for example, "what if I could make money by talking
to people," you're immediately looking for ways that could
be true. Consciously you might ponder why people would pay to
hear you talk, how you could sell such a service, what you have
to say that is useful to others, and so on. But even if you consciously
move on to other matters, you'll sometimes later have an idea
pop in your mind.
There is a lot going on underneath the surface of our conscious
mind, and good questions are a way to stimulate and direct creative
thinking and problem solving at a less-than-conscious level.
Here are a few what-if questions to exercise your mind...
What if you could make a living working four hours per
What if we elected politicians without knowing their party
What if vacations were free?
What if cars cleaned the air instead of polluting it?
What if you could learn a language in three weeks?
What if vegetables grew like weeds?
If you ask these kinds of "what if" questions enough,
and ask them every day over a period of weeks, the process should
become habitual. That will make you a more creative thinker.
Of course, most of the ideas this question suggests will be silly
or worthless, but that's just the nature of many creative ways
of thinking, and it isn't a problem. In the end you can simply
produce a lot of ideas and then pick through for the good ones.