Creativity Corner: The 4-minute Brainstorm? – Episode 33

Can you actually have a productive brainstorm with others, in only 4-minutes? A technique I read about in Harvard Business Review shows how to do it, and when to use it. Sarah’s recap.

In your job as a content marketing pro, there’s constant pressure to be creative, stay on top of trends, and use your skills to better attract your audience. This helps you advance in your career, and helps you add value to your organization. Being creative is a huge skill, and one that, I believe, can be learned and enhanced further through different techniques and exercises.  So, that’s why I’m creating these Creativity Corner episodes. I believe everyone is creative—we just need different prompts to get there sometimes.

Which leads us to today’s creativity topic:  Can you actually have a productive brainstorm– with others — in only 4-minutes?  I read about a technique called question bursts in Harvard Business Review and the author, Hal Gregersen, shows how to do it, when to use it, and why it’s helpful. So, I’m going to give you a recap of this 4-minute brainstorming technique now.

Who is Hal Gregerson?

Hal Gregersen is a senior lecturer in leadership and innovation at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, a former executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, a fellow at Innosight, and a co-founder of the Innovator’s DNA consulting group.

As an inspirational speaker, he has worked with organizations as Chanel, Disney, Patagonia, UNICEF, and the World Economic Forum, and been recognized by Thinkers50 as one of the world’s most innovative minds.

He has authored or coauthored ten books, translated into fifteen languages, including his most recent bestsellers, “Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life” (which gets into the question burst technique I’m going to cover today)  and another book “The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators”(with Clayton Christensen and Jeff Dyer). 

Topics Discussed During this Marketing With Empathy podcast episode

  1. The origin of Hal’s 4-minute Question Burst technique
  2. Steps one through three to implement your own 4-minute brainstorming session
  3. Examples of good questions to ask
  4. How to make it a habit
  5. Hal quotes his former MIT colleague Robert Langer who’s been called the “Edison of medicine” who said, “When you’re a student, you’re judged by how well you answer questions. Somebody else asks the questions, and if you give good answers, you’ll get  good grade. But in life, you’re judged by how good your questions are.”

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Sarah Panus is a content marketing strategist, Minnesota mom, and owner of Kindred Speak, LLC, a remote consultancy that helps brands with digital content marketing, influencer marketing, and brainstorming. She’s spent the last two decades helping brands including Sleep Number, Starbucks, Nestle Waters, Christos Bridal, Game Crazy, Cone Inc, and others speak a kindred language with their audiences, driving brand advocacy and millions in revenue and brand engagements. Email Sarah at to book a free 20-minute consultation to discuss your brand storytelling questions and needs. Follow Sarah on Instagram or LinkedIn as she helps brand content marketers who struggle with overwhelm or confusion at work. Learn more at