Use the Kipling questions at any time or when you need to get an extra stimulus.
They are good for unsticking creative session, when people dry up and run out of ideas.
They are also useful to help take different views when defining the problem.
You can also use it to ask questions when selecting an idea to carry forward for further development.
Rudyard Kipling used a set of questions to help trigger ideas and solve problems and immortalized them in the poem:
I have six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
I call them What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who
These questions can be used as stimuli to get thinking going in many situations.
Ask a question
The simple approach is to take one of the questions, either at random or with a more particular purpose in mind and ask it of the situation.
Thus, for example, if you were organizing an office party, you might ask ‘Why are we having it? How much fun do we want? What music do people like? Who will come?’ and so on.
Extend the questions
You can also extend the use of the raw single-word questions into question phrases, for example:
- How much?
- Why not?
- What time?
- Which place?
- Who can?
- Where else?
- When ?
Ask a planned sequence of questions
One approach with this is to use the questions in a particular order to help guide you through a sequence of thought towards a complete answer, such as:
- What is the problem?
- Where is it happening?
- When is it happening?
- Why is it happening?
- How can you overcome this problem?
- Who do you need to get involved?
- When will you know you have solved the problem?
- What is the problem? My suitcase is too heavy
- Where is it happening? At the airport
- When is it happening? In the evening, coming back from France
- Why is it happening? Because I have bought wine
- How can you overcome this problem? Get the wine shipped
- Who do you need to get involved? Winery will do it for me
- When will you know you have solved the problem? When it arrives at home
Any questions work because we are conditioned to answer questions that we are asked. They challenge us and social rules say it is impolite not to reply.
The Kipling questions work because they are short and direct. They are also largely general, and ‘What’ can be applied to many different situations, making them a flexible resource.