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Flip Your Problems – A Brainstorming Anti-Method for Success

Bizarro-Superman “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” – Albert Einstein Never underestimate the value of really knowing the problem you’re out to solve – and of taking a very different approach to exploring solutions. This anti-method is a creative problem-solving tool built to help solve business problems by looking at them from a new angle by turning every goal on it’s head. Similar to the Project Pre-Mortem brainstorming activity, this finds ways of succeeding through a look at failure. However, this tactic unlocks new paths to success by looking at how you can purposely shoot yourself in the foot. It’s actually a pretty fun activity, especially once you and your team start embracing then light-hearted level of ridiculousness needed to get serious results. This is a battle of matter vs. antimatter, a fight of the clean-shaven hero vs. the goateed evil twin. This is Superman vs. Bizarro Superman.* If your team’s solutions and proposals have been nothing more than incremental improvements to the status quo, but really requires a paradigm shift, this 45-minute exercise can inspire novel approaches for a team in need of inspiration. Step 1: Identify your problem or opportunity as you currently understand it. Like all good goals or solution statements, be specific as you and your team can. Example:
  • We need to increase sales by 40% in the next year.
Step 2: Flip your problem in a statement of absolute self-destruction. Example:
  • We will reduce sales 60% in the next year.
Step 3: As a team, break your statement down into sub-statements or sub-goals. Doing this after your flip will help get your team thinking on different levels. This is a brainstorming exercise; you should be looking for a quantity of ideas over quality. Hold judgment until the next step. Example: How could we dramatically hurt our own sales numbers?
  • We could hide or obscure product information.
  • We could provide poor sales support service
  • We could ship orders late, damaged or missing components without notice.
  • We could charge double what our competitors charge.
  • We could lower product quality standards.
  • We could invite angry customers to leave bad reviews online.
    • We could then feature those bad reviews on our own website.
  • We could make our website slow, ugly or difficult to use.
  • We could remove any information from our website discussing how our product could help customers, what problems we solved.
  • We could not respond to incoming calls and emails.
  Step 3: Clarify your Bizarro-World solutions Review your list with your team in order to get a shared understanding and agreement that “yes, this would definitely be shooting ourselves in the foot.” Move any ideas that the group agrees would be ineffective to a separate “holding,” board. These may not be the immediate direction the conversation takes, but those ideas could spark something later.  Step 4: Re-Flip your concepts Like a good-guy-turned-villain-turned-hero, your journey to the dark side has made your team’s understanding stronger and filled your next round of problem-solving with more specific directives or directions. Example: How could we dramatically improve our own sales numbers?
  • We could highlight product information.
  • We could provide better sales support service
  • We could ship orders early, more protected or include bonus items without notice.
  • We could charge less than what our competitors charge.
  • We could raise product quality standards.
  • We could invite happy customers to leave great reviews online.
    • We could then feature those great reviews on our own website.
  • We could make our website faster, more  professional or more simple to use.
  • We could improve, expand or clarify information from our website discussing how our product could help customers, what problems we solved.
  • We could always respond to incoming calls and emails within 2 hours.
Try this on a few small problems on your own before bringing in the whole team. Creative problem-solving tip Some of what you come up with – probably the first 75% of the ideas generated – are going to seem like no-brainers. That last 25% is where the ideas start to get weird and the status quo truly starts to get challenged. To make sure you get as much of the weird and wonderful concepts your competition isn’t taking the time to discover, push hard for a large quantity of ideas.     * (If you got those references, check out the opportunities to join our team. You’d probably fit in pretty well!) photo credit: ElDave via photopin cc
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