Reverse brainstorming takes advantage of the natural human tendency to more easily see problems than solutions. What’s more, many individuals when placed in a traditional brainstorming environment will find it difficult to become creative on command. Reverse brainstorming is an approach where individuals brainstorm the various ways a plan could fail.
Understanding reverse brainstorming
Instead of asking the individual to solve a problem, reverse brainstorming asks them to consider the cause of a problem and then determine how to achieve the opposite result.
Reverse brainstorming is useful in situations where:
- Ideas put forth in a traditional brainstorming session are too broad and lack enough detail to be put into action.
- There is a general lack of knowledge or expertise among team members.
- Complex problems generate a lot of unviable or unrelated solutions.
- Particular individuals with dominant personalities are making it difficult for others to express their ideas.
- A business has a product or service performing poorly in the market and can’t pinpoint why.
How to conduct a reverse brainstorming session
Below is a general approach to conducting a reverse brainstorming session:
- Identify the problem – start by clearly defining the problem as a goal that needs to be met by a specified time or date.
- Reverse the problem – in step two, the team takes the goal and reverses the expected process. Instead of brainstorming ideas to solve the problem, stakeholders are encouraged to think about how they can make it worse. For example, a team looking to improve customer service might consider how they can make customer service so poor that the customer walks away from purchasing.
- Gather ideas – the team then brainstorms ideas concerning the question posed in the previous step. A good facilitator is essential in ensuring the team does not revert to offering solution-based ideas. Examples of poor customer service include ignoring customer complaints, criticizing customers, dishonoring warranties, and not greeting shoppers as they walk through the door.
- Reverse the gathered ideas – once the team has exhausted their creative potential, the gathered ideas themselves must be reversed. To improve customer service, the team may suggest store representatives give a warm welcome to shoppers instead of ignoring them.
- Evaluate ideas and identify solutions – with every bad idea now transformed into a good one, the team can evaluate them and determine the best way forward. Ideas can be prioritized in any way the business sees fit.
- Reverse brainstorming is an approach where individuals brainstorm the various ways a plan could fail.
- Reverse brainstorming is useful in situations where traditional sessions yield broad ideas lacking sufficient detail to be put into action. The approach can also be used to tackle complex problems or where certain dominant team members hinder a collaborative effort.
- Reverse brainstorming can be performed in five steps: identify the problem, reverse the problem, gather ideas, reverse the gathered ideas, and evaluate ideas to identify solutions. Reversing or reframing the solution as a problem is paramount, and a good facilitator ensures the team remains committed to the process.
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