To start with, select an issue or topic about which you need to generate ideas. The fact that some of you will be more familiar with the topic than others in a group situation doesn’t matter for this exercise. Everybody will get benefit from trying out the technique and swapping notes afterwards.
The topic should have a positive and possibility-focused phrasing, such as “How can we gain/improve/create/diversify/build…” Make sure that everyone in the group understands the question or statement.
If in a group, nominate someone to record ideas on a flipchart. If you are on your own then make sure you have a notepad handy.
Then (and only then) take the topic and reverse it. For example if your topic is “How to improve sales in the company?” reverse it to “How could we drive down sales as low as they could possibly go?”
Write down this reverse statement. Brainstorm for as many ideas as you can (about the reverse statement, forget the original topic for now) and record them. This is where human nature takes over; we are more likely to record negative ideas than positive ones.
Note your ideas verbatim. Don’t allow any judging or filtering of ideas to be made during idea generation. Keep it quick and always include the unlikely, the weird and the apparently impossible.
Next, take those ideas and reverse them again. This can be done:
Topics that you might like to investigate are:
Even newcomers to this type of thinking should be able to generate 10 to 20 good ideas in around 20 minutes.
Derek Cheshire is an expert, speaker, consultant and facilitator in the areas of business creativity, innovation and idea generation. He is creator of the Innovation Toolkit, and co-creator of workshops such as Creating The Difference, Creativity as a Business Tool, Sticky Strategy and The Idea Factory. Derek is also a director of the PRD Partnership, experts in commercializing ideas. For more information, please visit his website: www.creative4business.co.uk/.
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