What is Reverse Brainstorming?

Reverse brainstorming is a creative problem-solving technique. It works by identifying the ways to cause a problem to worsen, or a plan to fail. This counterintuitive approach helps to identify weaknesses, gaps, and underlying issues.


Innovative solutions are then devised to counteract hypothetical problems, expected to occur based on the brainstorming ideas.


The Reverse Brainstorming Process

The reverse brainstorming process follows a series of steps:


  1. Define the problem:

    Clearly articulate the challenge or issue you’re trying to address.

  2. Frame the reverse question:

    Flip the problem statement to focus on making it worse. For example, if the problem is “low customer engagement,” the reverse question might be “How can we make customers even less engaged?”

  3. Brainstorm worsening factors:

    Encourage free-flowing ideas on how to exacerbate the problem. No idea is too outrageous at this stage.

  4. Reverse the ideas:

     Once you have a comprehensive list, go through each point and brainstorm its opposite. How can you prevent the negative outcome that you just identified?

  5. Refine and evaluate:

    Analyze the solutions generated through reverse brainstorming. Consider their feasibility, potential impact, and alignment with your original goals.



How to Use Reverse Brainstorming

Here are some tips for using reverse brainstorming effectively:


  • Set the stage: Explain the technique clearly and encourage active participation. Emphasize the importance of wild ideas and a judgment-free environment.


  • Facilitate the session: Keep the discussion focused on the reversed question and ensure everyone has a chance to contribute.


  • Record everything: Write down all ideas, regardless of how outlandish they may seem, to stimulate further brainstorming and ensure no valuable insights are missed.


  • Think laterally: Encourage participants to explore unexpected connections and build upon each other’s ideas.



Advantages and Disadvantages of Reverse Brainstorming



  • Fresh perspectives: By approaching the problem from a different angle, reverse brainstorming can uncover hidden causes and lead to innovative solutions that might not have been considered otherwise.


  • Identifying weaknesses: It can expose potential flaws in your existing strategies or plans by highlighting what could go wrong.


  • Improved team dynamics: The playful and open nature of the technique can foster a collaborative environment and encourage creative thinking within the team.




  • Time commitment: Although seemingly straightforward, a successful reverse brainstorming session requires dedicated time and focused effort.


  • Solution blindness: Focusing solely on making things worse can lead teams to overlook or downplay potential solutions during the initial brainstorming stage.


  • Groupthink: It’s important to have a diverse team and encourage constructive criticism to avoid getting stuck in a groupthink mindset.



Examples of Reverse Brainstorming

Here are some examples of how to apply reverse brainstorming in different scenarios:


Goal: To increase website traffic

The SEO team wants to find ways to increase organic traffic to the company website. Rather than finding ways to improve rankings, the team instead discusses how to make the website even harder to find.


They list all the ways that they could obscure the site from potential visitors. I.e., don’t publish good content, poor use of metadata, bad UX, etc. Then, examine the site in detail to ensure none of them are occurring.


Goal: To reduce product returns


A company wants to lower the amount of product returns. They brainstorm ways to make sure customers return products even more frequently. The question is “How can we decrease our product quality and service?”


Then, analyze their existing policies and product quality – checking against the ideas they’d suggested.




In conclusion, reverse brainstorming is a valuable tool for generating innovative solutions by challenging assumptions, exploring root causes, and fostering creative thinking. 


By flipping the traditional brainstorming process, teams can uncover new insights and develop effective strategies to address complex problems.

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