To use this technique, you start with one of two "reverse" questions:
Instead of asking, "How do I solve or prevent this problem?" ask, "How could I possibly cause the problem?" And instead of asking "How do I achieve these results?" ask, "How could I possibly achieve the opposite effect?"
Reverse brainstorming is a good technique to try when it is difficult 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 meeting on the subject. The team is overworked, team members are "trying their best" and there is no appetite to "waste time" talking about this.
So she decides to use some creative problem solving techniques she has learned. This, she hopes, will make the team meeting more interesting and engage people in a new way.
Perhaps it will reveal something more than the usual "good ideas" that no one has time to act 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?"
Already she starts to see how the new angle could reveal some surprising results.
At the team meeting, everyone gets involved in an enjoyable and productive reverse brainstorming session. They draw on both their work experience with patients and also their personal experience of being patients and customers of other organizations. Luciana helps ideas flow freely, ensuring people to not pass judgment on even the most unlikely suggestions.
Here are just a few of the "reverse" ideas:
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. For example:
And so it went on. The reverse brainstorming session revealed many improvement ideas that the team could implement swiftly and Luciana concluded: "It was enlightening and fun looking at the problem in reverse. The amazing thing is, it's helped us become more patient-friendly by stopping doing things rather than creating more work".
Reverse brainstorming is a good technique for creative problem solving, and can lead to robust solutions. Be sure to follow the basic rules of brainstorming to explore possible solutions to the full.
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