O'Connor's Seven Essential Innovation Questions (SEIQ) Framework

Asking Questions, Generating Ideas

O'Connor's Seven Essential Innovation Questions (SEIQ) Framework - Asking Questions, Generating Idea

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Unleash your creativity with a better perspective and some clarity.

Picture the scene: your main competitor has just announced the launch of a game-changing new product, which makes your equivalent look completely out of date. Your boss wants to hear your proposals for a response, but all you have in front of you is a blank piece of paper.

So, it's time to get creative. But, you can't just switch on creativity like a light. Some days, you need a helping hand to get the ideas flowing, and that's where O'Connor's Seven Essential Innovation Questions (SEIQ) can help.

In this article, we discuss how you can examine concepts, ideas and products in a new way, and how generating these suggestions and solutions can help you to gain a competitive advantage.

What Is the SEIQ Framework?

The SEIQ Framework is a form of structured brainstorming, and as such it bears some resemblance to other product improvement and assessment resources.

You can apply SEIQ to situations where you're seeking to do – or to produce – something innovative. This might be developing a new product or service, or finding better way of doing things within your organization, such as managing inventory more effectively.

The seven questions are derived from the following terms:

  • Look
  • Use
  • Move
  • Interconnect
  • Alter
  • Make
  • Imagine

How to Use the SEIQ Framework

SEIQ is a simple and effective tool. Your first step is to identify an opportunity to innovate. Then, work your way through the Seven Essential Innovation Questions, below. Ask them in the order given, and write down any answers and suggestions as they spring to mind.

Finally, read through your notes to identify the most promising, viable answers and suggestions (TELOS can be a useful tool at this stage), so that you can explore them further.


SEIQ was developed by a team led by strategist Bill O'Connor, at the software corporation Autodesk. It is a part of the Autodesk Innovation Genome project, a study of the common characteristics of innovation throughout human history. When complete, the project will have analyzed the "innovation DNA" of 1,000 key innovations, from the Stone Age hand ax through to the internet.


Expanding and refining the seven basic questions can help you to generate even more ideas, should you need them. O'Connor suggests broadening the scope to 49 questions in order to spark more possible solutions.

The Seven Essential Innovation Questions

Answer each of the seven questions in sequence:

1. What could we look at in a new way, or from a new perspective?

This is probably the most important question, and it's the one from which the others follow. The ability to look at an opportunity or situation with a fresh pair of eyes lies at the heart of innovation. For example, you could view customer feedback as an aid to product development, rather than being defensive about criticism.

2. What could we use in a new way, or for the first time?

This question involves identifying resources that already exist, and considering how you might use them in a different way. For example, you might use and repurpose your staff suggestion boxes as a springboard for developing new website content. Or, spare packaging in the warehouse could be used for office storage.

3. What could we move, changing its position in time or space?

Focus on altering the position, speed or frequency of an operation. Some auto insurance firms now offer "pay as you go" policies, for example, in which you only pay for the miles you drive, and your premiums are adjusted higher the more you drive. This is an idea borrowed and reworked from the cell phone industry.

4. What could we interconnect in a different way, or for the first time?

This involves connecting two or more ideas to create something new. The clockwork radio, for example, brought together two concepts (clockwork mechanisms as a form of power generation, and radio receivers) that might not immediately seem to be a good fit.

But, when these concepts were joined together and refined, a useful, low-cost electronic device for developing countries was developed.

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5. What could we alter or change, in terms of design and performance?

Consider how you could alter an existing idea or process in order to produce a new one. For example, could you rearrange functions and processes to build products on a production line, rather than on a one-off basis.

6. What could we make that is truly new?

Sometimes, it's possible to think completely "outside the box" and to come up with something new. These ideas tend to be the historical game-changers, such as the discovery of penicillin in 1928, or the more recent development of using detailed satellite data to collect accurate weather information. But, you can still ask the question about your own problem or situation.

7. What could we imagine that would create a great experience?

This final question invites you to imagine a post-innovation state that's vastly different to what went before. The development of the cell phone is an example, as humans all over the world now have immediate access to amounts of information that would have been unimaginable just 20 years ago.


Some of these questions might fail to generate any ideas or solutions for your particular situation. If you find that a question doesn't spark any ideas, move on to the next one and get thinking again!

Key Points

O'Connor's Seven Essential Innovation Questions (SEIQ) grew out of the Innovation Genome project developed by Autodesk. The questions are:

What could we look at in a new way?

What could we use in a new way?

What could we move, changing its position in time or space?

What could we interconnect in a different way?

What could we alter or change?

What could we make that is truly new?

What could we imagine to create a great experience?

Developing your most promising answers to these questions can enable you to leverage opportunities and solve problems in creative and inventive ways.