Negative Brainstorming

Sometimes we just run out of steam. What do you do when you have exhausted all of the possible solutions to a problem, you’ve thought of everything you can, but you still feel there may be some more ideas that you have not come up with?

You can try doing a negative brainstorm.

What this technique uses is the human tendency to see the negative side of things. When an idea is put forward, it is often easier to come up with reasons why it won’t work rather than looking for what’s good about the idea.

So – if we’re good at coming up with negatives, we might as well use this skill!

Negative brainstorming works like this:

  1. The problem is written on the flipchart.
  2. Instead of brainstorming for possible solutions the team brainstorms for everything that could make the problem worse.
  3. The output from this brainstorm is then taken and explored to see if any new ideas for a solution are suggested.

Here is an example:

Information was getting lost between the day and night shifts in a hospital. The team came up with this negative brainstorm . . .

Figure here

When the brainstorm is complete the idea then is not to literally reverse each negative into a positive. For example, don’t simply turn, “Make sure you always blame the other shift” into “Don’t blame the other shift”. Instead, you should explore each negative to see if it suggests any further ideas for improvement.

Ideas for solutions that could develop from the negatives in the above brainstorm would be things like:

Next time you’re stuck for ideas, try a negative brainstorming session. It is both productive and fun!