Put negatives to positive use as you reframe solutions and hash out improvements based on what your team doesn’t want.
For previously unseen solutions, gather your team and brainstorm the worst strategies possible, so you can eventually find the best.
Falling on your face is the quickest way to learn what not to do. Do the same to find solutions to team problems and projects.
Wear kneepads: Take your project through an imaginary crash test, cushioned from consequence with the reverse brainstorming method.
Ramp up to success: Identify solutions more easily when you frame them unconventionally.
Stay in sync: Collectively reverse brainstorm as a team to promote problem-solving.
Swap stories and showcase your team’s gnarly skills using FigJam’s free interactive template, complete with easy-to-use widgets. From Simple Vote and Lil Notes to Activity Tracker, these collaborative tools seriously grind.
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Reverse brainstorming is a unique and entertaining way to elevate your team’s creative solutions. It’s a slightly goofy approach to problem-solving that involves leaning into the “worst-case scenario” of it all: how could we make this problem even worse? After indulging in a doomsday mindset, reverse the negative outcomes to come up with a potential solution or solutions to your complex problem that hadn’t previously crossed your mind.
When you’re stuck on a seemingly impossible task, the importance of reverse brainstorming can’t be understated—it leverages our natural impulse to spiral toward unpleasant “what if's" before forcing us to switch up our thinking for the better.
Traditional brainstorming and reverse brainstorming techniques share similar features, including zero rejection of ideas and team collaboration. While brainstorming techniques typically focus on positive solutions and forward momentum, reverse thinking asks your team to imagine negative actions that won’t help fix the problem, and will even make it worse.
There are advantages and disadvantages of reverse brainstorming, as there are with the regular brainstorming process, but the most notable advantage is that it eliminates pressure to solve, solve, solve. In the end, your list of ineffective responses helps reveal opposite actions for prime results, thereby taking you on a winding path toward the same—or even more inspired and original—ideas.
The reverse brainstorming technique follows four steps. For this reverse brainstorming example, let’s imagine your product is struggling with customer retention. You’ll want to:
1. Identify a flaw in your system, like low customer metrics.
2. Bust the system by imagining ways you could make your product unusable, from slow load times to distracting user interfaces.
3. Reverse your list by turning negatives into desired positives: a fast digital experience, an intuitive UI design, and helpful customer support resources.
4. Take actionable steps to address your reverse thought examples, like investing in a product redesign project and improving your staff onboarding process to instill core values into your team.
To get the most value from a brainstorming session, ensure participants clearly understand the goal of the exercise and the problem being addressed. Foster collaboration by encouraging creative ideas and innovative solutions. Focus on generating as many new ideas as possible. Once participants have had the chance to share, evaluate and build upon the most feasible solutions.
Following the reverse brainstorming process can produce multiple ideas and creative solutions for a variety of scenarios:
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