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Green light and BrainstormingBrainstorming 101 – Ask Questions

Writing is a verbal way of problem-solving. At the core of problem-solving is asking and answering questions – but what are the questions? You will begin the report writing process by writing down the questions you will need to address in your report. Just putting words down on the page can get you over the paralysis of the blank page.

Why Brainstorm

Before you can organize such information, you must first collect it. That is why we must brainstorm before we attempt the outline.

In the next few lessons, we will detail how to generate an outline. When you create an outline, you are essentially organizing information.

Tips for Good Questions

Tip 1: Make your questions both general and specific. Write down whatever occurs to you and any questions you think your reader might have. As you think through what you remember about the examination, be sure to answer the question: What issues did I identify?

Tip 2: Keep the questions informal, so that you do not worry about whether they are the right questions – you can weed them out later. This is the green-light phase, where you allow your thoughts to go unhindered by censorship. The point is to drill down until you get to the questions at the heart of the matter. One way to do that is to expand on any issues you identified. After you identify your issues, be sure to answer the question: Are there any related problems for these issues?

As an example, if you would like to see the kinds of questions you might address if you were writing about the management of a bank, click here. Click the link a second time to close the preview.

Tip 3:  After you have brainstormed specific issues and related problems, drill down even further. If there are problems, how severe are they? What are my possible solutions? Do I need to provide matters requiring immediate attention, matters requiring attention or just observations? For every issue you identified, list any and all
matters requiring immediate attention, matters requiring attention or observations.

Tip 4:  To make sure you capture the detail you need, anticipate the questions your readers will ask and address the objections your readers will have to what you write. For this, you will want to specifically consider the issues, matters requiring immediate attention, matters requiring attention and observations. Chances are bankers will not be pleased to hear these things; therefore, in addition to all other questions, you need to consider and answer questions similar to the following:

  • What facts prove the issues I have presented?
  • How can I help management see that the matters requiring immediate attention and matters requiring attention are not optional, or that the observations are in management’s best interests?

If the bankers do not agree with your findings, they are likely to challenge your writing. Your job is to mitigate challenges by drafting questions and answers that will help you prove your points.

If the bankers do not agree with your findings, they are likely to challenge your writing. Your job is to mitigate challenges by drafting questions and answers that will help you prove your points.

Tip 5: If your topic is broad (such as a credit risk analysis write-up vs. a write-up on one specific aspect of credit risk, like the loan loss reserve), you might ask questions the way a journalist does: who, what, where, when, how and why.

  • Who oversees credit risk management (credit administration, credit analysis, loan review)?
  • What is the purpose of each of these functions?
  • Where are they located within the lending administration hierarchy?
  • When do they interact with each other and in what manner?
  • How do they carry out their responsibilities, and are they in line with internal policy guidance?
  • Why are there issues with these functions, structurally?
  • What are the facts, related problems and solutions (matters requiring immediate attention, matters requiring attention and observations)?

Your answers to the questions will be the foundation for your report.  Again, keep in mind that this is free-form writing, and while you are developing questions, you must also draft the answers to those questions.  At the end of the day, your list (long or short), will not be all-encompassing; therefore, a good starting point for a list of topics to help you brainstorm can be found in the appropriate supervisory manuals for your specialty area (Commercial Bank Examination Manual, Bank Holding Company Supervision Manual, Consumer Compliance Handbook, etc.).

Here is a list of links that will serve as good resources for you:

Before moving on, take note: One method for brainstorming is to prepare a list of questions you need to answer when creating your report.



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