We all run out of killer ideas eventually. This is where design thinking tools come into play. They help us engage with our creativity and come up with the next step or solution. Brainstorming is one of the most common, simple, and oldest tools. Individuals name anything that comes to their minds related to the theme or problem freely.  However, negative brainstorming (also known as reverse brainstorming) differs from it by reversing ideas and solutions that are named.

Read our article to learn more about the power of brainstorming. Or, for more insights from experienced entrepreneurs, sign up for our EWOR Platform and gain access to over 17 courses and a plethora of resources.

Why Brainstorm?

What’s really fun about brainstorming is getting inspired by others. Once an individual names a solution or an idea, it directly helps others to make more connections to the topic and come up with more answers. In that way, not only your team enjoys the process of ideation, but also comes up with many different and creative ideas.

Brainstorming vs. Negative Brainstorming

We talked about how to engage with brainstorming briefly. How does brainstorming differ from negative brainstorming? While brainstorming focuses on making connections, finding solutions, or coming up with new ideas, negative brainstorming focuses on what could go wrong. Instead of finding solutions first, negative brainstorming helps you identify any problem that might appear along the way. 

When you try to see the bigger picture and possible problems your customers may have, you can minimise or eliminate them before they come out. That’s why, negative brainstorming aims to identify the problems and what can worsen these problems, instead of coming up with any solution directly. 

Why is Negative Brainstorming Essential?

In traditional brainstorming, you focus on finding answers to positive questions, such as “How can we increase sales?”, “What should we add to our new design?”.  Even though it is a very effective way of finding answers, it might narrow down your perspective to only one step of creation.

When you employ negative brainstorming, you think about what could go wrong, such as “What would affect the sales negatively?” or “What if other brands have similar designs?”. 

It is a better idea to use negative brainstorming instead of traditional brainstorming when you:

  • and your team are having problems coming up with good ideas quickly,
  • you and your team want to think outside the box to find new ways for problem-solving,
  • are stuck with the number of solutions that come to your and your team’s mind,
  • want to bring a different and creative approach to the topic,

How to Use Negative Brainstorming: A 5-Step Guide 

If you don’t know where to start and what order to follow, here is a simple 5-step guide for you and your team; 

  1. Identify the problem: i.e How do we improve customer satisfaction?
  2. Reverse the problem: i.e. How do we make our customers dissatisfied?
  3. Collect ideas: i.e. Keep customers on hold for too long and forget about them
  4. Reverse the ideas: i.e. Don’t keep customers on hold for more than 3 minutes 
  5. Evaluate the ideas and solutions

Or, if you want to get more information about each step, read our article to learn more about how to use negative brainstorming. 

What Are Examples of Negative Brainstorming?

Customers Needs

You can identify customers’ needs by asking your team to brainstorm negative possibilities. For instance, ask them to think about what’s the worst thing, quality, function, and so on about your product. By doing so, you can improve your product’s quality and meet the needs of your customers. 


Think about what could easily fail. When you design a product and get ready to launch it, you take so many risks. These can be budget risks, commodity risks, cost risks, and so on. Or, more simply, a similar product or design might already be on the market. 


Instead of thinking about the possible solutions directly, think about how could your solutions fail. Is it possible that any of your solutions would make the problem worse?


We always tend to approach our product and any ideas for improvement positively. However, you should also consider whether any improvements would make the process go slower or be more expensive. 


You need to take your competitors into account. You can plan your next strategy more effectively when you consider your competitors’ worst strategies or any strategies that would put you at a disadvantage. 

Long Story Short

Brainstorming is one of the oldest and most simple tools for the ideation process. Negative brainstorming is another approach to it with a single difference of thinking about the negative possibilities and outcomes.

It helps you and your team to see the bigger picture and identify the problems that might emerge. You can reverse every idea or improvement to your product and think about what could worsen them to think about solutions to refrain from them. By doing so, you can minimise the risks and increase your sales. 

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