One of my favourite brainstorming/problem solving techniques is what I call ‘double reversal’. [I know that the inspiration for this technique (and perhaps even the name) has come from something I’ve read but I have no idea where (perhaps de Bono?), so apologies for the lack of attribution…]
Here’s how it works (and how I used it in a session today)…
Firstly, state the problem question.
‘How can we ensure that staff use (and use correctly) the quality assurance checklist?’
Then reverse it.
‘How can we ensure that staff do not use the quality assurance checklist?’
And then brainstorm answers to the the reversed question.
- Make the checklist irrelevant
- Ensure it’s hard to find
- Make it hard to use
- Tell everyone it’s not important
- Make it time-consuming
- Don’t provide any context or reason for its use
- Don’t tell new staff about it
- Reward people who don’t use it
- Make fun of people who use it
Then reverse each of the answers.
- Make the checklist relevant
- Ensure it’s easy to find
- Make it easy to use
- Communicate the importance of the checklist
- Make it quick to complete
- Provide context and reasons as to why it needs to be used
- Include it in new starter induction processes
- Reward people who do use it
- Follow-up and call out those people who don’t use it
You get the idea….
By reversing the question and aiming for the ‘wrong’ answers I find it frees up people’s thinking. They immediately start to think more broadly and get a bit silly with their ideas (which makes it lots of fun). It’s likely that if you just brainstormed solutions to the ‘right’ question then you’d come up with many of the same ideas in the end, but I always find I tend to get more through the ‘double reversal’ technique (especially those ideas that seem so obvious that they’re over looked). This technique seems to work really well for those problems where you want to get people to behave in a certain way or take certain action. Try it. It’s fun.
Some problems to get you thinking….
- ‘How to stop people from speeding on the roads’. Reversed: ‘How to get people to speed on the roads’.
- ‘How to get people to recycle more’. Reversed: ‘How to get people to recycle less’.