Reverse brainstorming helps you to solve problems by combining brainstorming and reversal techniques. Combining these you might be able to extend your brainstorming usage drawing out even more creative ideas.
In order to use this technique you might start with one of two reverse questions:
instead of asking: “how do I solve/prevent this problem?” ask: “how could I possibly cause the problem?”.
instead of asking “How do I achieve these results?” ask: “How could I possibly achieve the opposite effect?”.
Hiro: AHHǃ What are you doing?!
Tadashi: Shake things up! Use that big brain of yours to think your way out!
Tadashi: Look for a new angle.
Big Hero 6 (film)
Using the tool:
1. Identifying the problem or challenge and write it down;
2. Reverse the problem or challenge asking yourself as I have described above in my example;
3. Brainstorm the reverse problems to generate reverse solutions. Allow the brainstorm ideas to flow freely – don’t reject anything at this stage;
4. Once you get done all the ideas to solve the reverse problem now “re-reverse” these into solution ideas for the original problem/challenge;
5. Evaluate these solution ideas. Can you see a potential solution? Can you see attributes of a potential solution?
Tip: this tool is a good technique to use when it’s hard to identify solutions to the problem directly.
Luciana is the manager of a health clinic and she has the task of improving patient satisfaction. There have been various improvement initiatives in the past and the team members have become rather skeptical about another meetings on the subject.
The team is overworked, they are trying to do their best and there is no time to waste talking about that. So she decides to use some creative problem solving techniques she has learned.
This will make the team’s meeting more interesting and probably engage people in a different way. Hopefully it will reveal something more than the usual “good ideas” that no one usually has time to work on.
To prepare for the team meeting Luciana thinks carefully about the problem and writes down the problem statement:
– “How do we improve patient satisfaction?”
Then she reverses problem statement:
– “How do we make patients more dissatisfied?”
As soon they have started everyone was involved in an enjoyable and productive reverse brainstorming session. They came up both their work experience with patients and also their personal experience of being patients and customers of other health services.
Luciana helped ideas flow freely ensuring no people’s judgment on even the most dummy suggestions.
Here are just a few of the reverse ideas to make customer’s life worst:
- Double book appointments;
- Remove the chairs from the waiting room;
- Put patients phone on hold (and forget about them);
- Have patients wait outside in the car park;
- Discuss patient’s problems in public.
When the brainstorming session runs dry the team has a long list of the reverse solutions. Now it’s time to look at each one in reverse to think about a potential solution. Well-resulting discussions are quite revealing. One example of a big list: Have patients wait outside in the car park.
– “Well of course we don’t leave patients outside in the car park – we already don’t do that.”
– “But what about in the morning, there are often patients waiting outside until opening time”
– “Mmm, true. Pretty annoying for people on first appointments.”
– “So why don’t we open the waiting room 10 minutes earlier ?“
– “Right, we’ll do that from tomorrow. There are several members of staff working already, so it’s no problem.”
.. and so it went on. The reverse brainstorming session revealed many improvement that the team could implement swiftly and it’s possible to concluded: it was enlightening and fun looking at the problem in reverse. The amazing thing is that it helped the team to become more patient-friendly by stopping doing things rather than creating more work.
I hope this little story can inspire the way of looking at problems from a new angle.