How Can You Drive Performance With Absurd Questions?

Lison Mage
5 min readJun 28

In one of my previous newsletters, I shared a concept that I particularly enjoy: absurd questions.

In the realm of decision-making and performance, optimisations and processes are often perceived as kings. They can offer good answers and incremental returns but will rarely lead to a breakthrough.

Absurd questions are one of the most interesting tools to foster radical innovation.

These questions help us think differently. They help us to think outside the box. They ask us to make abstractions of reality or, more specifically, our perceived reality.

They can sometimes feel useless because, as intriguing as it might sound, wondering which animal species would be the rudest if it could talk is unlikely to make our team’s performance leap and reach new heights.

They can also be risky as they push us out of our comfort zone and ask us to deviate from the norms and the expected.

But this is precisely because they can push us in new directions that absurd questions have tremendous potential. As we force ourselves to part way with our perceived reality, we have to question it. And this can help us uncover blind spots, clarify misconceptions and dissolve limiting beliefs.

Of course, not all absurd questions are made equal. I defined three categories that I find pretty valuable when it comes to performance — either for individuals or teams.

I named them the 3Is, for:

  • Impossible Constraints
  • Imperial Decrees
  • Insane Futures

I already discussed in my other newsletter absurd questions with impossible constraints, which usually revolve around how to achieve a goal while removing a critical resource like time, staff or even knowledge.

Like, “how would you get this 6-month project completed in 3 days?”. Of course, the initial reaction is often: “well, that’s impossible”. And most probably, it is. But the point is that trying to answer this absurd question forces us to think…

Lison Mage

I help people & teams lead strategic change and make better decisions. Read my book on Overthinking: