Creative masterminds approach life’s challenges in unique ways. A designer’s job is to make something better than it was before. The designer recognizes the problems present with a given item or visual message and is tasked with creating something that provides the optimal solution to these issues. Accomplishing such a goal is not always as simple as brainstorming for a solution. So what’s a good designer’s secret? Reverse brainstorming.

Focus on how NOT to fix the problem before coming up with a solution

The process of reverse brainstorming helps you travel back and unravel a situation in order to come up with ways of solving a particular problem. Designers who employ reverse brainstorming start by focusing on how not to fix the problem they are dealing with. Instead of looking at a problem and thinking about its solution, designers look at different ways to cause the problem, or how to actually make it worse. By understanding the worse cases for a situation, creative thinkers are able to devise a collection of backup remedies and combine them in order to create an effective and unique solution.

Reverse Brainstorming Doesn’t Have to be Boring.

From individual thought processes to group activities, reverse brainstorming is a realistic and an effective way to succeed at problem solving. Here are four tactics to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Break Out Your Drawing Skills

Have some fun with reverse brainstorming! Look at problem solving from a Pictionary point of view—sketch a visual representation of your problem and have your team or study group take turns drawing elements that could make the situation worse. Come up with at least as many ideas as there are people in your group.

Next, have a team member write out the results on slips of paper and stick them in a basket. Then pass the basket around and have each team member pick one idea at random and instruct them to present at least two solutions corresponding to the problem they chose.

You don’t have to be the next Michelangelo to play a successful game of Pictionary, nor do you have to be MacGyver to come up with a creative answer to the problem at hand. You just need an open mind and good intentions.

2. Host Team Debates

Who doesn’t like a good old fashioned debate? Sometimes a social hour is just what your team needs to come up with the ultimate solution.

Split your group into two teams. You present the problem and have one team brainstorm ways it could be made even worse. Then, once that team presents its reverse solutions, invite the other team to play devil’s advocate and come up with ways to resolve the other team’s solutions.

3. Use Post-It Notes

Create a reverse brainstorming board out of Post-It Notes. Post-Its can help you prioritize your ideas. If you’re working with a group of people, dedicate a portion of an office wall to the project and invite each person to contribute his or her ideas on Post-It Notes throughout the week. Name the board after the obstacle your team is facing and create a column for (1) potential causes, (2) ideas on how the situation can be worse, and (3) ways to fix those concepts.

When you utilize this method, by the end of the week, you’ll be able to have an in-depth discussion with your team on how to address solutions from every possible angle in order to create a better product or service in the long run.

4. Freewrite

If you’re flying solo on a project, try freewriting to shake out some ideas. When you know your problem, let your imagination fly with this technique for generating ideas. Spend time with your stream of consciousness by dedicating a specific time frame for this activity. Spend 20 minutes on each of the following concepts:

Possible causes

  • New problems that could arise from not fixing the first problem (how you could make the problem worse)
  • How you could solve those problems

You don’t have to be a writer to put down ideas on paper. You don’t even have to show your rough drafts to anyone. This is just a method to personally assist you in identifying the potential causes of your initial problem, further obstacles brought on by your initial problem, and ways in which you can overcome all of these issues.

Reverse brainstorming allows you to release your inner creative being and enhance your problem solving abilities. It stimulates the mind and, when done effectively, can make work much more entertaining. With a bit of practice, you can easily throw your brainstorming process in reverse and think like a designer.

Set a Goal For Yourself

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