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The Reverse-brainstorming Technique That Will Extract Your Genius

Posted by Steve Ferris on 01 December 2014


We've all been there, the place where our clever brains just give up and seem to die. So what can you do when you need a fresh injection of creativity? "Brainstorm!" No, reverse-brainstorm. Watch as we use terrible ideas to find great ones.


Step 1: Set the scene.

Gather together the team who will need to be involved. Have a central place where you can all write or post your ideas to that other can see. White boards, post-its on a table or sidewalk chalk in the side of your office will work great.

Step 2: Present the goal.

Be sure that the goal of the session is understood by everyone. Present the problem at hand and give any important details as to the kind of solution you are hoping for.

Step 3: Dream up the worst crap you can imagine.

Yes, do your worst, and encourage others to bad as well. The more hilarious the better. By forcing yourself to push out all the bad ideas, you will easily be able to find the opposite counter-ideas that will be ideal for you.

Step 4: Now reverse it!

Take all those crazy bad ideas and find their opposite good idea. This is where those amazingly awful ideas will start to really surprise you in where they begin to point you.

Look at this example:

Goal: Improve your e-commerce customer's experience.

Ripped packages Nicely packed and durable packing material
Clothes are too small, you feel fat Extra measures to insure proper fit (use a service like Virtusize or Metail)
Shipped to wrong place Verify shipping information multiple times during order
They are for the opposite sex Hire people who can read (you get the idea)
Service people are rude Put in the work to develop a positive work culture, and have special training if needed.

Get more great ideas on building e-commerce businesses in our interview with Nordic Design Collective

Why it's good for a team

You will see a noticeable release of tension as people begin to appreciate the humor aspect that is being brought into play. This method also lowers the performance bar and encourages everyone to join it.
At the same time this exercise of bad ideas reduces the chance for self-centered know-it-alls to show off their “great" ideas.

This method is especially good for...

  • When you’re stuck, and your traditional methods have failed you so far.
  • Early entrepreneurs to plan a product, service, business. List everything that could go wrong, and make you a disaster, then map out how you will build to work around all those nasty scenarios. 

So next time the pressure is on to think of something smart and you can't seem to catch a break, just give up. Go an entirely different direction, and try reverse-brainstorming.

 I want to know how it works for you. Tell us all about it in the comments below.

Topics: Marketing Strategy

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