Historical Examination

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These questions are especially useful for generating ideas for improving something (the evolutionary approach), but they also help to break thinking out of the evolutionary mode and put it into the revolutionary mode by returning the thinker to the origin and purpose of the idea or solution. By returning to the roots of the problem, a new vision can be created.
Recommended size of group: 
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Optimal amount of time needed: 
60 Minutes
Usual or Expected Outcomes: 
Lots of new ideas.
Level of Difficulty to Facilitate: 
Facilitation skills required

Ask the following questions:

1. Essence. What is it? object, concept? What is it made of? What is its real, elementary nature? What are its parts? What is it like, unlike? (Similes and metaphors help in understanding abstractions). What is it related to? What are its various kinds, facets, shades? What is it a part of? Which part of it is unusual or outstanding? In what forms does it appear? Is it typical or atypical of its kind? What is it not? What is it opposed to? How is it different? What makes it different?

2. Origin. Where did it come from? How was it made or conceived or developed? What caused it? If an idea, how did it arise? Are its origins meaningful now? What makes it spread or multiply or gain adherents? What was the reason behind it? Is the reason still valid or useful? Why? Why not? Is it still needed? What influences it? Does it change? Can it, should it be changed, strengthened, eliminated? What could have prevented, delayed, encouraged it?

3. Purpose. What does it do? How does it work? What is its purpose? Is the purpose fulfilled? Better than by its predecessor? Can it, should it be improved? Is it helpful or harmful in intent? What are its implications; what does it lead to? Does it have obvious or hidden consequences? Does it have more than one purpose? What are its immediate effects and its long-term effects? Is its actual function the same as the original purpose intended by its originator? Can it be put to other uses?

4. Import. What is its overall significance? What is its significance to man, environment, civilization, happiness, virtue, safety, comfort, etc.? How is it important? Is it a key element in life, civilization, local area, one man's existence? Is it necessary? Is it desirable?

5. Reputation. What do you think about it? What are your underlying assumptions? What do others think about it? Do you find consensus, division? Is it good, bad, helpful, harmful in fact or in the opinion of others? Can you resolve any differences between truth and opinion, intent, and actuality, pro and con members? What weaknesses are commonly identified? Are there obvious areas of desired change or improvement or elimination?

How flexible is the process?: 
Follow-Up Required: 
Process the ideas
History of Development: 


Robert Harris, (January 5, 2002). VirtualSalt, Creative Thinking Techniques