Use the Kipling questions at any time or when you need to get an extra
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
You can also use it to ask questions when selecting an idea to carry
forward for further development.
How to use it
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
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,
- 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
How it works
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
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.
Assumption Busting, Challenge,
SCAMPER, Why not?