Questions and Ideas (Q&I)

Everything on how to run a Q&I session and make everyone happy

Q&I is the most powerful as simple technique there is to find answers to your most challenging questions, whilst you help others do the same. In this article I will share why you should use this method, and how easy it is to use.

Start a fire, by asking a question: why Q&I works

We all want to get somewhere, but we seem not to be familiar asking others for their help. That is crazy, because everyone has ideas, experiences and contacts that could get us there really fast. Including you… You as well might be able to help others out with the challenges they are facing.

Just try it out: see what happens when you ask someone ‘How can I…’ or ‘Do you have an idea how to…’ and be surprised what happens. A question is the most powerful firestarter. And please: give attention to what people share. The smallest thing might be the key for you to ‘take off’.

And just imagine what would happen when everybody in the room ‘takes off’… Exactly that is one of the effects of a Q&I-session: a room buzzing with people, exchanging loads of ideas, helping each other to move on, focused and highly energetic. It is not just you or the person next to you; everybody benefits!

How Q&I works — the short version

“The thing I love about Q&I is that you can explain the whole thing in about a minute. ”

— Charles Davies, London (United Kingdom)

You have never seen something this easy before: just ask your question, listen to the answer and give an advice in return. That is it, and you just have to repeat it a few times to collect some more insights and be pushed to action.

How to run a Q&I session yourself

In fact, it takes a bit more preparation and discipline to do a good Q&I-session. So here is the more detailed ‘how to’:

  1. Get a bunch of people together. Q&I works well with 2 to about 200 participants.
  2. Get a free timeslot of about 30 minutes.
  3. Have some materials available: a piece of blank paper, a stack of post-its/sticky notes and a (working) pencil for each participant.
  4. Tell the participants about the ‘why’ of Q&I (as mentioned above), and get them in the mood for a session.
  5. Distribute the materials.
  6. Let each participant write down what his/her question is (on their piece of paper). Instruct people to write down a question that is as challenging as concrete as possible. Usually it helps to phrase the question starting with ‘How can I…?’ or ‘What ways are there to…?’
  7. (When the group is not too big you could invite people to read their questions out loud, so everyone knows what questions are to be answered during the session.)
  8. Make people stand up (if they had not already done so) and walk through the room or the space you are using.
  9. The first round starts: each participant finds an other. They have a few (usually 2–4) minutes to discuss their questions and write down some ideas, clarifying questions, contacts, suggestions for the other person (on a post-it/sticky note).
  10. Make sure that people write down their ideas and hand over their post-its/sticky notes to the problem owner. Everything that has not been written down will surely be forgotten by the end of the session.
  11. Be strict in the time limit and make sure people bring an end to their discussions.
  12. Repeat step 9. Everyone finds a new partner to discuss both questions again and bring in new ideas. The advantage of subsequent rounds is that people can build upon ideas that others have already shared.
  13. (When you want to take part in the session yourself, instead of ‘just’ being the facilitator, this might be a good moment to step in — when everybody gets the trick.)
  14. Depending on the group size and the energy in the room do a maximum of ten rounds of exchanging questions and ideas. Bring the session to an end while the energy is still high!
  15. After the last round: check-in with people how they are doing and if they managed to find great ideas for their challenges. (If someone did not you could do a real quick ‘shout-out’ of ideas that might suit their question, but had not been brought up the discussions.)
  16. (You could let participants decide on their next steps following this session as an extra exercise.)
  17. Do whatever you’re up to. Continue your conference, get back to work, go home, or whatever. Just remember to share your Q&I-experience using the hashtag #questionsandideas and pointing people to this article. :-)

Where are Q&I sessions being held?

Maybe you can experience Q&I in your own living room, or at your sports club. Eventually, you might do a Q&I session with some colleagues or at a conference. You wouldn’t be the first…

Q&I sessions are being held globally, as you can see by reading the quotes below.

“I have been using Q&I both as a gamestorming tool on my Twitter network and as a way to stimulate discussion on the wild nature walkshops we run here in Dream Valley. It never fails to leave everyone feeling great about finding value and helping others.”

— Jack Hubbard, Morillon (France)

“At the Happy Startup School we work with fledgling wantrepreneurs who often shy away from asking for help. Q&I not only helps progress ideas but also demonstrates to budding business people the power of the community and the value of its collective wisdom.”

— Carlos Saba, Brighton (United Kingdom)

“I always have a lot of questions and ideas… but never figured out how to get to the most important question and get many ideas from others. The ‘magic’ of Q&I just did that for me. Now I am spreading it to all my friends, colleagues, startups, anyone I meet!”

— Kumaran Mani, Chennai (India)

“I ran Q&I sessions three times over during a training-week and used different formats to see how it worked. Overall I liked it; it is a great technique to invigorate a group. In fact: it completely eliminated the post lunch depression that usually hits and totally reenergized the room.”

— Gar MacCriosta, Dublin (Ireland)

“A big part of my day is guiding groups of entrepreneurs. It is very rare for me to come across new, simple and powerful tools to use. Q&I is such a tool. So simple — so powerful. Ik keep using it since I discovered it — in each and every course… People start using it and can not stop!”

— Viki Ber, Tel Aviv (Israel)


On the author

Wiro Kuipers runs his family business Zin in de Zaak (NL), together with his partner Judith van Oostrom. They love to enable people to make impact with their ideas. For that reason Wiro is active as a facilitator for the Cool Ideas Society, as he is the mentor of the Dutch participants in The Happy Startup School. If you like to reach out or ask a question, feel free to do so via wiro@zinindezaak.nl.