reverse-brainstorming

What Is Reverse Brainstorming? Reverse Brainstorming In A Nutshell

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:

  1. Identify the problem – start by clearly defining the problem as a goal that needs to be met by a specified time or date.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Key takeaways:

  • 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.

Connected Brainstorming Frameworks

Starbusting

starbursting
Starbursting is a structured brainstorming technique with a focus on question generation. Starbursting is a structured form of brainstorming allowing product teams to cover all bases during the ideation process. It utilizes a series of questions to systematically work through various aspects of product development, forcing teams to evaluate ideas based on viability.

Appreciative Inquiry

appreciative-inquiry
Appreciate Inquiry (AI) is an organizational change methodology that focuses on strengths and not on weaknesses. Appreciate Inquiry was created by management professors David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s. The Appreciate Inquiry is also known as the 5-D Cycle, an iterative cycle describing five distinct phases, made of define, discover, dream, design, and destiny.

Round-robin Brainstorming

round-robin-brainstorming
Round-robin brainstorming is a collective and iterative approach to brainstorming. Brainstorming is an effective way of generating fresh ideas for an organization. Round-robin brainstorming is a balanced approach, employing an iterative, circular process that builds on the previous contribution of each participant.

Constructive Controversy

constructive-controversy
Constructive controversy is a theory arguing that controversial discussions create a good starting point for understanding complex problems. A constructive controversy discussion is performed by following six steps: organize information and derive conclusions; presenting and advocating decisions; being challenged by opposing views; conceptual conflict and uncertainty; epistemic curiosity and perspective-taking; and reconceptualization, synthesis, and integration.

Affinity Grouping

affinity-grouping
Affinity grouping is a collaborative prioritization process where group participants brainstorm ideas and opportunities according to their similarities. Affinity grouping is a broad and versatile process based on simple but highly effective ideas. It helps teams generate and then organize teams according to their similarity or likeness.

The Fishbone Diagram

fishbone-diagram
The Fishbone Diagram is a diagram-based technique used in brainstorming to identify potential causes for a problem, thus it is a visual representation of cause and effect. The problem or effect serves as the head of the fish. Possible causes of the problem are listed on the individual “bones” of the fish. This encourages problem-solving teams to consider a wide range of alternatives.

Rolestorming

rolestorming
Rolestorming as a term was first mentioned by personal development guru Rick Griggs in the 1980s.  Rolestorming is a brainstorming technique where participants pretend they are other people when sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Reverse Brainstorming

reverse-brainstorming
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. 

Lotus Diagram

lotus-diagram
A lotus diagram is a creative tool for ideation and brainstorming. The diagram identifies the key concepts from a broad topic for simple analysis or prioritization.

Futures Wheel

futures-wheel
The futures wheel was invented in 1971 by Jerome C. Glenn while he was studying at the Antioch Graduate School of Education.  The futures wheel is a brainstorming framework for visualizing the future consequences of a particular trend or event.

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