Taking a different approach to brainstorming can be a useful business management technique.

Two colleagues stand in front of a white board.We’ve all been there, sitting in those brainstorming meetings where no one is coming up with any ideas. Or all the ideas are stale. It’s a frustrating experience, particularly if you’re the manager. But just because a brainstorming session isn’t going well doesn’t mean you should give up. Instead, you can try a twist on brainstorming: reverse brainstorming.

What Is Reverse Brainstorming?

Reverse brainstorming isn’t the opposite of brainstorming. Instead, it’s just like brainstorming, except instead of trying to find a solution, you’re brainstorming ways to create a problem. That may seem strange, but it can be quite effective if done properly.

How Should You Conduct Reverse Brainstorming?

  • Step One: Just like in a standard brainstorming meeting, you should begin by identifying the problem you want to solve. For example, if you’re managing a store, you may want to increase sales.
  • Step Two: Turn the problem into the goal. Instead of asking your team to brainstorm how to increase sales, you ask them, “How can we decrease sales?” Or even, “How can we drive the store out of business?”
  • Step Three: Let team members come up with ways to answer the question in step two. Welcome all ideas, however outrageous.
  • Step Four: Review all the ideas. Except, the goal isn’t to pick the best ideas. Rather, the goal is to analyze each idea by asking yourself whether your business is currently doing something similar to what’s stated in the idea. For example, if you’ve been brainstorming ways to decrease sales in a store and one of the ideas is to leave the store unstaffed, consider if, in fact, you do leave the store unstaffed on occasion. It’s unlikely you’re literally leaving it unstaffed, but what if you get a lot of calls, which makes it difficult to respond to customers in the store? Or what if your products need explanation but you rarely have anyone on the floor helping customers make decisions? You might be surprised what problems you can uncover in this phase of reverse brainstorming.
  • Step Five: Come up with ways to solve the problems identified in step four.

What Are the Advantages of Reverse Brainstorming?

  • It Forces People to Think Differently
    A good portion of success comes from learning from your failures. But most of us don’t like to focus on failure. Reverse brainstorming requires it, which can lead to ideas your team wouldn’t otherwise come up with.
  • It Reveals Hidden Problems
    If you only think about your business in terms of what you can add to improve the current situation, you may miss parts of the current situation that are causing problems. Or, to put it another way, making repairs can sometimes be more valuable than making additions.
  • It Can Be Refreshing
    Most people rarely get the opportunity to think about ways something can be worse. This can make reverse brainstorming a kind of adventure and can make brainstorming fun again for those who’ve grown weary of it.
  • How Can You Learn More About Business Management?

    Reverse brainstorming is one of the many techniques you could study when you earn a graduate-level management degree. If you’re going through management training or are looking to improve your overall management skills, earning a graduate degree, such as an MS in Management, can be exceptionally useful. Through a master’s in management program, you can gain the skills you need to effectively manage projects, teams, and organizations in the private, government, and nonprofit sectors.

    So, what’s the best way to go about earning a master’s degree? For many, the answer includes online education. Unlike campus-based learning, online learning doesn’t require you to live close to a top business school or even drive to class. Instead, online graduate degree programs give you the freedom to study from home or from anywhere else you have internet access. On top of that, you can take online master’s in management classes at whatever time of day works best for you. That means you can earn your MS degree while continuing to work full time.

    Successful management starts with understanding how to get the most from the people you manage. Reverse brainstorming is one of the techniques you can use. Through an MS in Management online degree program, you can learn many more management techniques.

    Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Management degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


    Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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