Warren Berger (the author of the new book A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas) writes:

Brainstorming has developed a fraught reputation, perhaps deservedly so. When groups of people are thrown together and expected to come up with original ideas, there is often too much pressure to be creative—resulting in ideas that are anything but.

But what if brainstorms were designed to generate questions, not ideas? And while it may seem counter-intuitive (Who needs questions? We need answers!), encouraging people to formulate lots of questions around an issue or problem can lead to deeper analysis and a better understanding of that problem—which, eventually, can yield smarter ideas on how to tackle it.

When participants are generating questions, they tend to dig into a problem and challenge assumptions. They may inquire about why the problem exists, why it’s even considered a problem, whether there’s a bigger problem behind that problem, and so on. The process gives people permission to ask fundamental questions that often don’t get asked; not just “how can we do it better?” but also “why are we doing this in the first place?”

It can be hard to know what to do with ideas that emerge in brainstorms, but questions are more “actionable.” They’re almost begging to be answered, or at least researched, pondered, and discussed further.