IAF Methods

Reverse Brainstorming

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Brainstorming definitions and solutions to the reverse of a difficult problem

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Reverse Brainstorming combines both brainstorming and reversal techniques in order to develop more creative ideas than in a usual brainstorm. This method is particularly useful when it is hard to directly identify solutions to a certain problem or challenge.


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  • Pen and paper or flipchart and markers



Pre-work: Think through the brainstorm question and the reverse brainstorming question, to ensure they are relevant to the desired outcome.


1. At the beginning of the session, the group has to clearly identify the problem or challenge, and write it down.

2. In the following, the original problem definition is reversed and put into either of the following forms: "How could I possibly cause the problem?", or "How could I possibly achieve the opposite effect?"

The reversal effect is achieved by turning a question such as "How do I solve this problem?" into "How could I possibly cause the problem?", also by reversing "How do I achieve certain results?" into "How could I possibly achieve the opposite of the desired effect?"

3. Now the group begins to brainstorm on the new problem definition, by thinking of solutions for the reverse problem. It is important that the facilitator allows the participants to let their ideas flow freely. Any suggestion might deliver an effective reverse solution.

4. As soon as the participants have gathered all ideas or suggestions for the reverse problem, they will now reverse these ideas in order to turn them into solutions for the original problem or challenge.

5. In the end, the group reflects and evaluates on the newly developed solutions. The group has to evaluate if there is a potential solution among the reversed solutions and try to identify attributes of a potential solution.


Usual or Expected Outcomes: Alternative routes to solving a problem are discovered throughout the brainstorm.

Potential pitfalls: The brainstorm does not deliver helpful results, or no results different than those of a normal brainstorm.

How success is evaluated: Good participation by the group and having successfully discovered essential elements of the problem, which will help to develop solutions.


Source: http://www.virtualsalt.com/crebook2.htm

Recognizable components: Brainstorming

References: Brainstorming

Alternative names: Reversal

Comments (2) ( 4.5  avg / 2 ratings)

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  • If the reverse question is carefully thought through, this could be a really creative way to unblock solutions for a problem.

    about 3 years ago
  • Brilliant

    almost 2 years ago