What if Questions

Using What if Questions is a way of applying thought experiments to identify potential problems before they occur, not after.

With this knowledge you can to choose to prepare (or not) for different types of scenarios.

For example, before you purchase a car you may want to ask yourself some What if scenarios.

• What if I can’t make the payments?

• What if the car doesn’t meet my standards?

- Can I take it back?



• What if I get into an accident?

- Will the car protect me and/or my family from serious injury?

By using What if scenarios open the mind to a wide array of themes to review and assess.

Then, “if” the scenario happens, you will be more prepared than if you never thought about the outcome of your actions in the first place.

An excellent explanation of the power of What if scenarios is provided in the Book: Carrying the Fire - An Astronaut’s Journey by Michael Collins.

Collins writes:

“Thus, as in the case of so much astronaut training, the information has never really been needed, but it nonetheless was prudent to try to prepare people for as many variations upon the expected theme as possible.

I think this has been one of NASA’s great strengths in the conduct of Gemini, and even more so, the Apollo series. Large groups of capable men have sat for years around conference tables with engineering schematic drawings and asked themselves “What happens if?"

It should be noted that no man was lost on in any of the Mercury and Gemini missions. And no men were lost once the Apollo missions left the earth.

However, the biggest catastrophe of the Apollo program was when Grissom,White and Chaffee, lost their lives in a fire on the pad during Apollo 1 training.

There untimely deaths lead to even more What if Scenarios coupled with renewed and intensified commitments to do things right the first time.

Space travel is dangerous, an especially so in the early days of the US Space Program. However, it has arguably always been worthwhile.

This added rigor and renewed and intensified commitment helped propel us to the moon and do the other things in space that once were only talked about only in Buck Rogers comics and in books of fantasy.

Eventually twelve astronauts did walked on the surface of the moon and came safely back to earth as John Kennedy had requested. They achieved the dream of a nation--and of a world.

What if questions played a huge part in their ultimate success, and in the continued successes of the space program.


"Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real"
~ Jules Verne


The Power of What If!

What if scenarios are a powerful critical thinking tool for individuals and for companies.

Asking "What if questions" when doing a project can help identify potential problems early enough so that many can be minimized or eliminated before they occur, not after.

This process frequently saves large amounts of time and money.

Return from What if Questions to Problem Solving Techniques

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