Just by asking, “What if?” you push limits, challenge beliefs, and create possibilities.What if your hair was brown? What if you ate only fish? What if houses had feelings? What if there were no computers? What if dolphins walked? What if humans were the only intelligent beings in the universe?

Play with the idea and have fun! You’ll be surprised at how many new ideas you can come up with at work, along with improvement of processes!

As an executive coach, I ask people a series of “what if” questions to help them determine what they want to do with their careers. Because asking the question poses little threat, people are open to start thinking about what would happen if they moved to a new job, had a different job title, if their pay changed. Once the questions is asked, “What if you moved to this company as a manager?| Then the imagination takes over and possibilities stream in.

When I’ve used “what if” in arbitration and negotiation, the process has been critical for the process to break down barriers and deadlocks. If two people are stuck in a deadlock and start to ask “what if…,” other possibilities present themselves. Momentum in the negotiation begins to proceed forward. The change first takes place in the imagination and then the belief in possibilities occur. Without asking “what if” questions, the process freezes, often resulting in failure.

Try this: Take a question you are thinking about and start asking a series of, “What if” questions. You don’t need to answer the questions, but rather just build more questions around the challenge.

For example, pretend you want a new job. Go through spontaneously asking a series of questions such as:

  • What if I retired when I was 75?

  • What if I lost my job in a month?

  • What if I lived on eating peanut butter sandwiches only?

  • What if I outsourced my job?

  • What if computers did my job for me?

  • What if I was doing my ideal job, what would I be doing?

  • What if I worked 100 hours a week and loved it, what would I be doing?

There are no limits to the range of questions. And then when you start to go back and answer these questions, you think laterally, creatively, pushing the envelope to the common questions and answers you might currently ask yourself.

Try this, for the next week, each day, ask yourself 20 “what if” questions. Your first day might be, “What if I did this, what subjects would I question?”