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.
|Technique Overview||Reverse Brainstorming is a creative problem-solving technique that flips the traditional brainstorming process on its head. Instead of generating ideas to solve a problem, participants focus on generating ideas to cause or exacerbate the problem. It encourages participants to think from unconventional perspectives, uncover underlying issues, and ultimately identify innovative solutions. This approach is particularly useful when a problem seems entrenched or when traditional brainstorming methods yield limited results.|
|Process||The Reverse Brainstorming process typically involves the following steps: |
1. Problem Identification: Clearly define the problem or challenge you want to address.
2. Reverse the Problem: Encourage participants to think about actions or ideas that would worsen or create the problem. This involves considering what not to do.
3. Idea Generation: Participants brainstorm ideas for causing or exacerbating the problem. They can be as creative and unconventional as possible.
4. Analysis: Examine the reverse ideas to identify any underlying assumptions, constraints, or overlooked aspects of the problem.
5. Idea Reversal: Reverse the reverse ideas. In other words, transform the negative ideas into potential solutions by exploring how the opposite actions might lead to solutions or improvements.
6. Traditional Brainstorming: Finally, engage in traditional brainstorming to generate positive ideas and potential solutions based on the insights gained from reversing the problem.
|Benefits||Reverse Brainstorming offers several advantages: |
1. Unconventional Thinking: It encourages participants to break free from conventional thinking patterns and explore new angles.
2. Problem Deconstruction: It helps break down complex problems into manageable components.
3. Creativity Boost: By considering negative actions, participants often stumble upon creative solutions.
4. Assumption Identification: It reveals hidden assumptions and limitations that may be constraining problem-solving efforts.
|Applications||Reverse Brainstorming can be applied to various fields and industries, including product development, process improvement, marketing, and innovation. For example, in product design, it can help identify potential flaws or user pain points to improve the design. In marketing, it can reveal strategies to avoid marketing pitfalls and target audiences effectively.|
|Challenges||While Reverse Brainstorming is a valuable tool, it may face challenges like resistance to thinking negatively or difficulty in transitioning from negative ideas to positive solutions. Skilled facilitation and a supportive environment can help overcome these challenges.|
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.
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.
- Reverse Brainstorming Concept:
- Reverse brainstorming capitalizes on the human tendency to identify problems more readily than solutions.
- Traditional brainstorming might struggle to generate creative solutions on demand.
- In reverse brainstorming, participants focus on generating ways a plan could fail or how to achieve the opposite of the desired outcome.
- Purpose and Applicability:
- Reverse brainstorming is effective when traditional brainstorming yields broad, vague ideas lacking actionable details.
- It suits situations where team members lack expertise, complex problems produce unviable solutions, dominant personalities stifle collaboration, or when a product or service underperforms without clear reasons.
- Conducting a Reverse Brainstorming Session:
- Identify the Problem: Clearly define the problem as a specific goal with a set time frame.
- Reverse the Problem: Instead of solving the problem, reverse the process by considering how to worsen the situation. For instance, in customer service improvement, think about making the service so poor that customers walk away.
- Gather Ideas: Brainstorm ideas based on the reversed problem. Facilitators play a critical role in preventing participants from offering solution-oriented suggestions.
- Reverse the Gathered Ideas: Reverse the generated ideas themselves. For customer service improvement, consider having store representatives give warm welcomes instead of ignoring customers.
- Evaluate Ideas and Identify Solutions: Assess the now “reversed” ideas and determine the most suitable course of action. Prioritize ideas as per business needs.
- Importance of Reframing:
- In reverse brainstorming, the focus shifts from solving a problem to imagining how to create that problem.
- This shift in perspective helps identify underlying issues and innovative solutions.
- Role of Facilitator:
- A skilled facilitator is vital to ensure participants remain committed to the process and avoid slipping back into conventional solution-oriented thinking.
- Key Takeaways:
- Reverse brainstorming involves generating ways a plan could fail or how to achieve opposite outcomes.
- It’s applicable in scenarios where traditional brainstorming falls short, and it helps to tackle complex problems or mitigate team dynamics.
- The five steps of reverse brainstorming are: identify the problem, reverse the problem, gather ideas, reverse the gathered ideas, and evaluate ideas to find solutions.
- The technique’s success hinges on effectively reframing problems as opportunities for creative solutions, and facilitators play a crucial role in maintaining the process’s integrity.
Connected Analysis Frameworks
Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Business Models, Tech Business Models, Jobs-To-Be Done, Design Thinking, Lean Startup Canvas, Value Chain, Value Proposition Canvas, Balanced Scorecard, Business Model Canvas, SWOT Analysis, Growth Hacking, Bundling, Unbundling, Bootstrapping, Venture Capital, Porter’s Five Forces, Porter’s Generic Strategies, Porter’s Five Forces, PESTEL Analysis, SWOT, Porter’s Diamond Model, Ansoff, Technology Adoption Curve, TOWS, SOAR, Balanced Scorecard, OKR, Agile Methodology, Value Proposition, VTDF Framework, BCG Matrix, GE McKinsey Matrix, Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model.