Idea Generation
The five Ws and H are the only questions that human beings can ask each other:
  • Who?

  • What?

  • Where?

  • When?

  • Why?

  • How?

These questions make up a creative list (imaginative checklist) often used by journalists to write their articles. It is particularly useful to:

- generate data-gathering questions. During the early stages of problem solving, when you are gathering data, this checklist can be useful to make lists of questions that you can try to find answers for;

- generate idea-provoking questions. This checklist can be used to generate provoking questions to help build on existing ideas;

- generate criteria for evaluating options;

- check plans. This checklist is a useful tool for planning implementation strategies.

The answers to the questions included in the checklist are usually “facts”, rather than actions or problems. For example:

Question: “Who does X?”

The answer could be : “Tom”.

To use this answer in a problem-solving context you may have to take to another level. For example:

“If Tom does X, in what way might we make it easier for him?”

This “in what way might” stage is crucial if the facts are to come alive and contribute to the creative process.

In some cases you may need to use these questions (also called six universal questions) to outline the problem under discussion, as shown in Figure 3-5:

Figure 3-5: Five W's and H (Source: