The swift shift to digital as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has created new demands, both internal and external, for all industries, including banking. Without the option of holding in-person meetings, financial institutions (FIs) have quickly adapted to new collaboration methods for remote internal teams.

Is brainstorming outmoded?

For most teams, brainstorming is the first method they go to when solving for a problem or generating ideas. It’s practically ubiquitous as a go-to process, but it isn’t without a number of drawbacks; brainstorming can yield little payoff for the amount of time and energy expended, create a cacophony of voices that may obstruct good ideas, suffer due to overt or covert peer pressure, and more. A number of ways have been suggested to provide some course correction for the brainstorming process, like having participants write their answers down in an attempt to avoid ideas being shot down or to ensure people who are less likely to speak up have their say. But for some teams, ditching the brainstorming method altogether has proven effective.

The question storming method

For teams adjusting to working under remote conditions, “question storming” may provide improved results. In fact, Harvard Business Review says folding questions into a process makes for “better brainstorming.” Why? Good question. As its name implies, questions are at the heart of the question storming process. Oftentimes, teams approach brainstorming without true consensus on the problem they’re solving. By asking further questions about the topic they’re tackling, they can uncover assumptions that may be faulty and move past solving for symptoms and resolve the deeper, underlying problems.

How does it work?

Question storming isn’t all that different from brainstorming, in that it asks for extensive input and a commitment to building a judgment-free space for attendees. Where it differs greatly is in its approach. Instead of defining a problem and accumulating solutions, the question storming process kicks off with a relevant topic (for example, “30 percent of our FI’s account holders aren’t engaging on our mobile platform.”). Next, the question storming begins in earnest; instead of building out a list of solutions, smaller groups (ideally 4-6 people per group) generate questions about the topic. For example, “Are there demographic commonalities among the 30 percent of account holders who aren’t using our mobile solution? Is our mobile solution easy to use? What have people said they like about our digital banking offerings?”

These collected questions provide the springboard for next steps, which include improving the questions within the small groups then sharing their most relevant questions with the larger team. As the team reconvenes and shares these essential questions, next steps should emerge, creating an actionable dynamic that, hopefully, reveals meaningful solutions to the issue at hand.

Resources for working in the new normal

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic change daily. Q2 will continue to provide industry information and tips for working better in a fluctuating environment via the Q2 blog.


Written by Q2