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How Reverse Brainstorming Is Used To Generate Creative Strategies

Today's blog post will help you understand how you can use reverse brainstorming technique to come up with new innovative ideas and strategies.

how to use reverse brainstorming to generate innovative ideas

Reverse brainstorming, or negative brainstorming, is one of three techniques that help generate a large number of unusual ideas in a limited time.

In the Design Thinking Toolbox book, the authors list two other techniques:

  • Figuring storming – a thinking process done from the point of view of a third party. A typical question: How would “X” solve the problem?
  • Bodystorming – by physically placing a person in a particular situation, you mimic an experience as closely as possible so that the subjects can infer new ideas through physical trial and error and testing.

If you follow stoicism, you might be aware of the premeditatio malorum concept, which means whenever one wants to embark on new adventures, he needs to think about the evils and troubles that lie ahead.

This mental exercise prepares one for inevitable setbacks, implying that you should never get accustomed to good things in life. The flow of life is unpredictable; anything can happen along the way.

Reverse brainstorming reflects a fundamental idea of negative thinking in Stoicism.

So today, we’re helping you understand how you can use this mental model to come up with new innovative ideas.

🧠 What Is Reverse Brainstorming?

what is reverse brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming is an effective technique that brings a new perspective to idea generation and can be particularly useful to catch the “Aha Moment.”

You look at a problem from different negative angles, and your task is to develop ideas that cause problems and achieve the opposite result of success.

Miriam Hartman, a lecturer for Design Thinking at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons, says:

One of the greatest challenges consist of breaking away from our thinking solutions’ and understanding the problem holistically before we begin to develop solutions. Design thinking helps us stimulate our natural curiosity, question assumptions, and meet our customers with an open mindset.”

⬇ What Are The Steps Of Reverse Thinking?

what are steps of reverse brainstorming

The steps below are taken during a reverse brainstorming session.

Start by asking the following questions, 

What solution would help us solve or avoid the development of this issue?” 

“How can we achieve desired results?” 

Now, frame questions using a negative prism, 

How can I cause a problem? What should I do to fail achievement of my desired result?

See how thinking in reverse may open a new perspective on problems.

Another important value of this special technique is that sometimes negativity enhances creativity because it does not urge you to come up with a positive solution. 

👍 Reverse Brainstorming Advantages

advantages of reverse brainstorming

Often when your team is working on a solution to problems, their focus should be narrower. They generate too many broad ideas that may not suit the solution. In the case of abstract or complex issues, a wide range of ideas can steer your team in a completely different direction.

Because thinking about the reasons that could kill a product or service is something we don’t do intuitively, it helps to find new angles. It allows your team to think without constraints because they don’t know yet how many factors can kill the project.

👎 Reverse Brainstorming Disadvantages

disadvantages reverse brainstorming

A critical component of creativity: our social environment. If your environment doesn’t evoke creativity in participants, then you won’t see any worthy ideas.

A study found that, on the psychological level, spaciousness is related to the search for innovative ideas. Another research suggested that natural environments that incorporate plants boost creativity as well.

So the main disadvantage of reverse brainstorming is that you will be unable to achieve desired outcomes if your environment is not properly set up to enable participants express their minds freely.

🎨 Example of Reverse Brainstorming

example of reverse brainstorming

Imagine that you are the manager of a local coffee shop. Your boss has given you the task of attracting more coffee drinkers to your store. You decided to focus your targeting on hipsters.

You had several meetings with a creative team during which you settled on authenticity, inclusivity, social media rich content, and influencer marketing as your strategies to promote the coffee shop brand.

These are great ideas, but they’re too generic and don’t meet the real needs of your target audience.

You decide to try something else: reverse brainstorming.

You ask yourself, “Why an average hipster would like to visit this coffee shop? What’s so special about our place?”

Now, let’s flip this question, “What kinds of things would discourage hipsters from visiting our coffee shop?”

Our perspective suddenly changes. We stop feeling the fear of being punished for bad ideas. We become fearless in our quest to ruin this business, to make customers feel unwelcome. I’m already generating amazing ideas.

Here are some ideas on how to make hipsters feel unwelcomed in your coffe shop.

  • Prohibit fixed bikes with front baskets 🤣
  • Serve the worst wine and coffee 😲
  • Forgo almond, coconut and other types of milk 🤐
  • Serve processed food 😖
  • Get rid of ‘fair trade’ ‘non-GMO’ ‘cruelty free’ ‘vegan friendly’ ‘pet friendly’ and other labels 😨
  • Shift from co-working space with free WI-FI to one of those corporate coffee chains 🤯
  • Place signs that you support corporations 😱

I can go on and on with these ideas, but let’s move ahead. Now find solution for each point.

  • Encourage bicycles. Introduce a new discount scheme or a special coffee drink that only cyclists can drink as a sign of appreciation for respecting our nature. Install new bike racks to accommodate more people. Display a unique bike in your shop so people can take pictures with it and feel really special in your store. 🛴
  • Become a go-to place for the best wine and coffee. Host baristas from around the country for an evening of nice music, exquisite coffee drinks and so on. Use this opportunity to capture their email address for future marketing, and connect with customers on much deeper levels. ☕
  • Use only organic products. Partner with local producers who offer unique products. Have a real impact on the local community. 🍪
  • Incentivize co-working and entrepreneur meet-ups by offering coffee specials for morning meetings. Organize special morning meet-ups where people can network and learn more about the local business scene. 🤝

As you can see now, we’ve successfully turned negative into positive ideas.

You can apply this idea generation technique to other fields, such as web design, UX, content, and even your personal life.

😸 Download A Free Reverse Brainstorming Template

Strategy development can be difficult and time consuming when you don’t have necessary tools and knowledge. We developed an easy to use template that you can edit and apply to your strategy development sessions.

🧐 Key Takeaways

  • Hold sessions in creative environments
    • The scent of coffee is found to boost creativity and cognitive performance, according to one study. Participants work best when they’re relaxed.
  • Time boxing
    • Give your participants a certain deadline by which they need to come with as many answers as possible. Tell them to write down unfiltered ideas to avoid blocking their creative flows. You can do 3 separate 10-minute brainstorming sessions for the best results.
  • Avoid all types of judgment
    • During brainstorming sessions, avoid labeling ideas as ‘bad’ or ‘good’; all ideas are worthy of discussion regardless of their sanity. Also don’t rate ideas during the brainstorming process to avoid creative blocks.
  • Use Reverse Brainstorming and other special techniques to tackle complex issues
    • Special brainstorming techniques are useful for identifying creative ideas for which participants have difficulty finding solutions. Combine several techniques to generate better ideas and results.

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Reading makes you a better decision-maker. Receive weekly portion of articles on marketing topics, including in-depth how-to guides, research, case studies and strategies to inspire your next big campaign.