Individual Creativity Exercise

Six Questions

Brief description of creativity technique

Six Questions – Who, What, When, Where, Why, How--is one of the most common and effective techniques for analysis and creative thinking. These questions stimulate thinking by allowing users to see a problem from different perspectives. The technique is also known as 5W1H. 


The process is iterative and allows users to revise at any stage. The implementation allows flexibility to come up with new ideas to execute as corrective measures, and can be easily applied at different levels. Above all, this creative technique can provide a comprehensive view of a problem and detect possible resolutions.


Exercise for skills at the level of:






Learning objectives of the exercise

Six Questions allows one to understand a situation, identify a problem, and analyse the issue/situation from different perspectives. The technique helps in any product/service and process development. It guides users to assess the right problems, ask the right questions, and obtain the right information.


By assessing the right problems, asking the right questions, and obtaining the right information, the application promotes many soft skills needed in the labour market, including problem-solving skills, analytic skills, openness and attention to detail.


Strengths of asking Six Questions:


  • Simplicity: there is no need for training to use the technique. It does not require additional costs or resources except a sheet of paper or whiteboard. 

  • Systematic: This technique provides the framework to understand problems. It is an iterative process that allows users to revise the progress as a whole or at any stage. 

  • Flexible: It can be used equally well to come up with new ideas as to implement corrective measures. This technique is easily applicable at different levels. 

  • Comprehensive: The technique can be used to obtain a comprehensive view on the problem and detect the ways for resolution.


This exercise is relatively accessible and easy for beginners with no prior experience with the technique.


Skills developed/enhanced by the exercise









Tolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity

Others, please specify



Critical Thinking

Divergent thinking skills


Negotiating skills


Strategic thinking




In person: 25 minutes or more. (10 minutes presenting the technique and explaining the assignment. 10 min or more for the students to work on the assignment- 5 min. follow-up discussion.)


Online: 10 minutes synchronous time presenting the technique and explaining the assignment. 10 minutes or more time allowed for assignment. 5 minutes follow-up discussion.


How many people are needed?

One, or more


Materials required

In person: PowerPoint and/or whiteboard, paper and pen/pencil, template


Online: PowerPoint or other online presentation; template


Instructions for conducting the exercise

Step 1. Provide or have students chose topics/situations/issues. 

Step 2. Instruct students to determine the key factors relating to a problem and prioritise them using the six questions:

a. Who-questions identify actors involved in the situation or affected by outcomes. (i.e., staff, customers, stakeholders, beneficiaries, etc.) 

b. What-questions describe events, activities to be undertaken, and results/consequences of the action. (i.e., what ought to be done, what can go wrong.)

c. When-questions establish timeline, schedule or timing aspects. (i.e., when this activity should be performed, how long this action takes to deliver X.) 

d. Where-questions define locations where activities are performed, or the contexts in which the problems occur. (i.e., where else the same problem happens, what other places are affected by this problem.) 

e. Why-questions explain causes of problems or reasons for undertaking or not undertaking a course of action. (i.e., why the same problem was solvable in one context but not in another, why this course of action should be avoided, etc.)  

f. How-questions describe methods or approaches for solving problems. (i.e., how the same problem was tackled before, how the ideas should be presented for a thorough understanding, etc.) 

Step 3. Students then suggest effective actions and solutions for the given problems.


Case study from desk research

Product/service development (a stripped model of what is often used in product development – design studies): 

• Who are the target groups and stakeholders. For instance, who are the users of the service.

• What activities and events take place during the service process.  What are the results from these?

• When service is available (and how) and when service moments take place.

• Where (and how) service takes place, e.g. face-to-face, online?

• Why is the service needed (why the problem it is needed for exists)

• How-questions is the service implemented and how is the service developed.


Deep Thought Academy: The Six Questions was applied to the Deep Thought Academy in a private school described in a case study in Beyond Requirements, as following:

• Whom do we serve? Families located in the metro area where Deep Thought Academy is located with children in grades K through 8.

• What do they want and need most? A secular school where their children can receive the best possible education.

• What do we provide to help them? Small class sizes and personalized lesson plans.

• What is the best way to provide this? A combination of Montessori, a traditional teaching model, and individual guided learning styles combined with experienced faculty.

• How do we know we are succeeding? Based on average student rank in the Iowa Assessments.

• How should we organize to deliver? Non-profit school with a board composed of parents; small central staff who also serve as faculty. Target 15:1 student-teacher ratio.


Creating and analysing marketing strategy: a marketer shared how he used the Six Questions in developing marketing activities. 

• Why we need this content strategy? We need this strategy to generate sales, leads, brand awareness, brand retention and raw traffic

• What topic/areas will be covered? Topics related to alternative fashion: Punk Rock, Indie, Goth.