Reverse Brainstorm

“No problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.”
-Albert Einstein

We all have challenges … but when we attempt to solve them, we keep bumping into the same problem, over and over and over. Seems like the harder we try to find the solutions, the more we continue to only see what we’ve been seeing – The Problem! Not a great strategy – but one that most people employ. It’s a culture thing. Enter, Reverse Brainstorming.

When you get stuck, Reverse Brainstorming can be a huge ally.
The idea is to get out of your mind and allow creative solutions to flow. It’s less about trying to solve the problem and more about inviting and welcoming new was to perceive the issue at hand.

This week, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the staff of a local spa. The challenges were many and quite common:

  • A young staff (for many, their first job)
  • Unprofessional attire
  • Use of cell phones in salon
  • Drama
  • Disrespect of managers and clients
  • Bringing ‘dirty laundry’ to work (yes, that’s a metaphor!)
  • Lack of teamwork

In speaking with the owner and his managers before our meeting, it was clear that spouting off information, rules and consequences was not the route that would work. We generally don’t like to be told what to do (and this was already being done).

I recommended a new, less conventional approach. It was met with alarming enthusiasm and interest. We agreed to be a little more covert and (for this first meeting) simply do some seed planting and team building.

I chose Reverse Brainstorming because of its effectiveness with creative people. It’s also a great Team Builder while being loads of fun (if properly facilitated).

The example I shared was this:
Let’s say that I am the owner of an ice cream shop and want to find out how to make my customers unhappy.

The group gave some great ideas:

  • Ask the employees to text while working while ignoring the patrons
  • Never clean the counters!
  • List flavors on the menu that are not available
  • Don’t open extra service windows during peak times
  • Swear at customers
  • Complain to customers
  • Come to work dirty…

We split up into three teams of five. One person volunteered to be the writer. Using some of their ideas about their current challenges (fleshed out earlier), each team was given a problem to make WORSE. The answers were hilarious! And, more importantly, they were working together (as a team) while having fun. After the groups had depleted their ideas, the writer read them to the group.

Next, they converted the negative ideas into positive ones and were again revealed to the group. Surprisingly, this was equally entertaining as creating a bigger problem.

Without being told to fix anything, the motivated group had come up with solutions to problems that many of them did not know existed. In fact, it was done so covertly, I don’t think most of them had a clue that they were really working to solve anything!

Reverse Brainstorming can be a great way to break the ice, cut tension and help solve real problems. It’s also immense fun (if facilitated properly) and helps your group tap in to both the collective and intuitive mind(s). (As a note, sometimes I used Reverse Brainstorming on my own… just to shift my own energy around a challenge.)

Let me know how Reverse Brainstorming works for you!

Dena D.

P.S. Here is the website that I used to refresh my memory on the topic: Reverse Brainstorming