Reverse Brainstorming is a technique that builds on our natural ability to see problems rather than solutions more easily. People tend to overthink problems first. Instead of asking a group to brainstorm ideas that would work, the group brainstorms all the ways that they could fail. Instead of trying to solve a problem, reverse brainstorming generates ideas to make the problem worse. Then, you can reverse those ideas to discover fresh ideas for solving your original problem from a different perspective.
To use this technique, you start with “reverse” questions like:
Instead of asking: How do I solve or prevent this problem? Ask: How could I possibly cause the problem?
Instead of asking: How can I get more loyal customers? Ask: How can I lose my current loyal customers?
Instead of asking: What do I have to do, if I want to achieve these sales results? Ask: What do I have to do if I want to fail to achieve my sales goals?
Reverse Brainstorming works in five simple steps:
Step 1: Clearly identify the problem or challenge.
Step 2: Reverse the problem or challenge by asking: “How could I possibly achieve the opposite effect?”
Step 3: Brainstorm to generate answers for the reserve challenge.
Step 4: Now reverse these answers into solution ideas for the original problem or challenge.
Step 5: Evaluate these ideas and identify the best solutions.
Here is an example of reverse brainstorming:
Step 1: DEFINE THE CHALLENGE: Increase by 20%, our machine repair service sales.
Step 2: REVERSE THE CHALLENGE: How can we reduce sales of our services by 20%?
Step 3: COLLECT IDEAS: We could take 1 week to send proposals to our customers. We could stop visiting prospects this year. We could forget to follow up on old proposals. We could raise our rates.
Step 4: REVERSE THE IDEAS: We cannot take more than 2 days to send proposals to our customers. We must increase our meetings with prospects this year. We need to follow up on all our old proposals. We could offer discounts to selected customers for advanced contracts.
Step 5: EVALUATE SOLUTIONS: All solutions are now evaluated, and the feasibility of those ideas is assessed.