What is the right question to ask right now, and who should I approach for an answer to that question? A couple of years ago there was almost an answer, called the Delphi Method, which went something like this. Bring together a disparate group of people interested in a particular problem and then ask them to write a short answer to a general question concerning the problem. The facilitator would then read anonymously the answers and request a second round of written answers based on the feedback and then perhaps another round. The goal was to move toward a consensus on how the problem could be approached and resolved. That format was rather formal, but the same general method can be done by the facilitator asking a question and then giving each person three minutes to give their personal answer. The timer can be an automatic beeper, but if the person is on a roll that can be stretched a bit by asking for a conclusion. Then do a second round, with a slightly modified question refined from the previous responses.
A totally different but similar application to the Delphi Method was how, as an individual, to discover a workable answer to a problem you might have by finding the best available authority on the subject. Begin by asking people you know if they know someone who might have the answer to your problem, and make a list of people who would be helpful. Later ask the people you have interviewed to scan down your list and choose the top three. These questions are generally answerable in a minute and are not too annoying of time or invasion of your friends’ privacy. Seek out the people on the list, and ask them who they believe could best answer your question, and make a shortlist to pursue further. The similarity of this method to the Delphi Method is that it is recursive and selective of better options.
You can use this same method by using the same procedure within your own mind. First, ask the question, and then pretend to be different people with different points of view on how they would proceed. Writing down different answers would stimulate your mind to find alternate solutions.
The question now becomes, how can I ask the right question? And the answer is to begin by asking that question of your friends and acquaintances.