Questions in Sounding Board

When faced with a problem which does not succumb to the standard fixes, people need to be creative. Though people are generally pretty good at banging their head against the wall trying to force their standard approaches to work, they often need help with standing back and trying to figure out a fresh approach.

Sounding Board asks these 5 types of questions to help its users adopt a fresh perspective.

1. Attention-focusing questions (i.e., "What do you offer that your competitors do not?"): These focus the user's attention on parts of the problem he may have been taking for granted.

2. Barrier-busting questions (i.e., "What vacation would you take if price were no object?"): The idea of these questions is to eliminate some barriers from consideration long enough for the user to realize what he really wants.

3. Reminding-facilitating questions (i.e., "Who would be really good at solving problems like getting Motorola's business?"): These questions get the student to think more deeply about solutions he may already know.

4. Context-switching questions (i.e., "What recreational activities are you good at?"): Sometimes it is helpful to completely forget about the problem-at-hand for a moment, bringing a new context to bear on the old by asking a question about how they relate, such as, "How could you use your chess skills to help you land the Motorola account?"

5. Domain-level problem-solving questions (i.e., in the domain of computer science: "Is there some way that parallel processing could help here?"): If the program knows questions that are particular to the specific problem the user is facing, these questions can help point out when standard solutions might apply.

The program also asks two classes of questions which are primarily for its benefit, not the user's:

1. Problem-classification questions. (i.e., "What problem are you working on?"): These help the program figure out what kinds of questions are appropriate.

2. Slot-filler identification questions (i.e., "Who are your competitors?"): These help the program instantiate the follow-up questions with specifics appropriate to the user's problem.

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