Negative Brainstorming

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Negative (or Reverse) brainstorming requires a significant level of effort analysing a final short-list (rather the initial mass) of existing ideas. (see BulletProofing and Potential Problem Analysis ). Examining potential failures is relevant when an idea is very new, complex to implement or there is little margin for error. Negative brainstorming consists of a conventional BrainStorming session (or any other suitable idea-generation method) that is applied to questions such as: ‘What could go wrong with this project?’

Often referred to as the ‘tear-down’ method, because of its negativity can be advantageous and seen in a positive light when training implementers to deal with hostile criticism. However, even this example needs to be followed up with a constructive debrief to ensure the implementer feels encouraged and secure.

1. Brainstorm Displaying a comment such as ‘How not to solve the problem, i.e. how to really mess up implementing project X’ will generate much humour and unexpected ideas (which should be noted)

2. Identify a cluster i.e. comments said in different ways that mean the same thing ‘Staff only’; ‘don’t tell non-staff’, reverse the cluster to give a single positive comment e.g. ‘tell those involved’

Repeat step 2, ad lib as you go


  • J. G. Rawlinson, Creative Thinking and Brainstorming, 1981
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