When an irritated child folds his arms in oppositional defiance, a shrewd parent responds with a reverse psychology trick, “Of course, I really want you to go ahead and do that (whatever it is!)” Quite often the child will decide it’s not a good idea.

While Jack Welsh was CEO of General Electric, he introduced reverse mentoring that had top executives pair with young technicians to learn what might be new in how the internet and technology operated. This came from James Young’s blog “How Reverse Mentoring Can Help your Business”, found in the Feb. 15, 2018 Peakon newsletter, an interesting read.

What reverse “whatever” is about is reframing the question, situation, or context of a challenge. The shrewd parent is reframing the child’s decision and Jack Welsh was reframing executives’ long-held approach to work habits or practices.

In Design Thinking Sprints, team members are asked to brainstorm the challenge presented for solutions by way of questions or whatever might come to mind. However, Rafiq Elmansy writes in Designorate, a Design Thinking blog site, that Reverse Brainstorming can serve as a tool for clarifying the process of reframing the question.

In reverse brainstorming, the team attempts to present all the possible ways the challenge can go wrong. The term “brainstorming” came from Alex Osborn’s creative thinking books of which his 1942 book How to Think Up introduced “brainstorming” that became popular in creativity. Elmansy reverses the process to reframe the challenge from the bottom; how ugly, useless, and awkward can the challenge become if left to itself?

Such reframing can give inspirational insights into how to flip the challenge to stand on its feet with head held high. It is like hitting rock bottom before soaring to heights.

What happens in the creative brain is that reverse brainstorming helps to understand the problem in a deeper way in order to provoke more usable ideas. This process demands five creative steps the group engages together:

Who is the consumer whose characteristics are being reflected in the design?

Step 1: Clearly identify the problem that needs to be solved by the end of the group meeting.
Step 2: Reverse the expected process. For example, ask the stakeholders questions such as “how can we make the problem worse?” instead of “how can we solve it?”
Step 3: Collect all the reversed solutions. All the ideas are acceptable without criticism.
Step 4: After reaching the cases that make the problem worse, flip these cases to reach the best fixes for the problem.
Step 5: Judge and evaluate the results to reach one best solution.

The reversed brainstorming technique can also be applied to design and creative learning. It helps us to be able to think more creatively through exploring new thinking methods.