Reverse brainstorming with antisolutions

By Olga Murdoch, Agile Lead.

What is anti-solutions used for?

Sometimes the solution to a problem just doesn’t come easily. Other times the solution might seem obvious – but there is good reason to question if it would work in reality. When we don’t know for certain what the right solution is, anti-solutions provides us with a way to think outside the box. This is always a fun technique to use with groups.

Why should someone use it?

  • Help identify solutions to problems that are difficult to address
  • Challenge the assumed solution
  • Think outside the box

Directions on how to use antisolutions

Step 1: Set up the reverse question – the opposite of the issue at hand

Fair warning: from the very start, your audience will give you funny looks. They will get used to it in step 2.

Instead of asking, “how do I solve or prevent this problem?” ask, “how could I possibly cause the problem?” or “how can I make it worse?”

If the group is trying to, for example, improve customer satisfaction, the reverse question will be “how can we make sure our customers are dissatisfied?” 

Step 2: Start brainstorming answers to the reverse question

Get the group to come up with solutions to the reverse problem. E.g., ways to make the customer more dissatisfied. All ideas are welcome – encourage creativity and outrageousness. 

Step 3: Identify how many of the answers happen, or partially happen, today

Once you have run out of ideas, now identify which of these actually happen today – even partially. This part can be somewhat eye opening for a group.

Step 4: For the answers that happen, propose the opposite as a solution

For each idea that happens today – use the opposite as a proposed solution. Ask the group what they think of these as potential solutions.

What now?

Once you have a short list of potential solutions there are other brainstorming tools you can use to help tease out the details or to take something outrageous and make it more practical and implementable. We will feature these tools in a future newsletter. If you can’t wait until then – get in touch.

Why not try out this tool yourself, and let me (olga.murdoch@ucd.ie) know how you get on. 

Contact agile@ucd.ie for support on using tools such as this and others.

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