Feeling Stuck? You’ll Love These 5 Easy to Remember Brainstorming Questions - International Coaching Federation
New Member-Exclusive Benefit: ICF Engage

Feeling Stuck? You’ll Love These 5 Easy to Remember Brainstorming Questions

Posted by Emma-Louise Elsey | August 3, 2015 | Comments (1)

Any time your clients feel stuck or disempowered, try these five simple brainstorming questions. They work well for all types of coaching, including corporate and small business coaching, plus they’re easy to remember and can be whipped out any time you or your client is feeling stuck.

A little primer on brainstorming…

Remember that the goal of brainstorming is NOT to come up with lots of practical solutions, but to come up with a large quantity of ideas. The quality of those ideas is not of great importance because brainstorming helps us kick-start the mind out of its stuck place, and come up with new and interesting directions.

When brainstorming we’re interested in ALL ideas — however unlikely to succeed, ridiculous, funny, outrageous or silly. We capture the sensible, practical and even boring ideas too – but we don’t limit ourselves by saying “That won’t work because…” After all who knows where an impossible idea might lead?

A few brainstorming tips before you get started:

  • Help your client get clear on what specifically they want help with. If necessary, ask questions like: How would you like things to be different? What outcomes are you looking for? How will you know you’ve succeeded?
  • Make sure your client identifies AT LEAST three answers for each question before moving onto the next question.  The question, “What else?” is powerful to open up more ideas and answers. You can also add the words “in life” to the end of the question to get the ideas flowing again!
  • Ask your client to NOT to ‘think’ and instead just say whatever pops into their head — we want to bypass the rational brain and get underneath to some new creative and different ideas.
  • Strike a balance between allowing time for ideas to surface and keeping the momentum going with the questions.
  • While the questions may not seem exciting, remember that the answers might be. The questions are totally open, so your client can answer the question any way they see fit— even if their responses  seem irrelevant at the time.

Now you’re ready to brainstorm! Ask your clients to answer the five easy brainstorming questions below:

1. What could you STOP doing?

2. What could you do LESS of?

3. What could you do MORE of?

4. What could you CONTINUE doing? 

5. What could you START doing?

Once you’ve asked all five questions, keep cycling through them (you can try asking them in a different order too) to generate additional ideas.

Wrapping up the brainstorming session:

Remember that silence can mean your client is busy processing, so look for an energetic shift as your opportunity to wrap-up the brainstorming session rather than when your client stops talking.

Let your client know that sometimes it takes days or weeks for the ideal solution to come together. That means they should keep pondering and playing with the questions and their ideas between now and your next coaching session.

And there is always something they can do now. Because any action, however small or uncertain, will either move them forward or give them more information to help figure out the bigger problem. So, to draw the brainstorming session to a close, ask your client for at least one and up to three actions they will take to get them closer to their goal.

The beauty of brainstorming:

The beauty of brainstorming is that sometimes when we stop to look at the impossible we realize it is only our beliefs that stand in our way. Usually a ridiculous idea has a seed of possibility. The very act of thinking up an outrageous idea jolts our mind into new territory and suddenly we have a very workable idea. When the dull and boring solution gets combined with something silly it might just become the next step your client has been waiting for…


Emma Louise Elsey

Emma-Louise Elsey

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching for more than 10 years and is Founder of The Coaching Tools Company.com, an ICF Business Solutions Partner, and Life Coach on the Go. If you like this post, check out more than 100 coaching exercises, activities and toolkits, including the Vision and Goal-Setting Toolkit, and more than 25 free coaching tools. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies, she discovered coaching in 2003 and hasn't looked back. Sign up for our exclusive newsletter for coaches with many other great articles and tools for your coaching toolbox at The Coaching Tools Company.com

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Additionally, for the purpose of full disclosure and as a disclaimer of liability, this content was possibly generated using the assistance of an AI program. Its contents, either in whole or in part, have been reviewed and revised by a human. Nevertheless, the reader/user is responsible for verifying the information presented and should not rely upon this article or post as providing any specific professional advice or counsel. Its contents are provided “as is,” and ICF makes no representations or warranties as to its accuracy or completeness and to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law specifically disclaims any and all liability for any damages or injuries resulting from use of or reliance thereupon.

Comments (1)

  1. Georgia Vaitl says:

    A great and clear explanation of the process of effective brainstorming. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Not a member?

Sign up now to become a member and receive all of our wonderful benefits.

Learn more