Friday, January 24, 2014

The Anti-Problem - a brainstorming technique

Jon Williams of Strategic Proposals (one of the Proposal Guys) was looking at a bookshelf in Utrecht and found a book entitled Gamestorming. One of the techniques in the book fascinated him:

I particularly liked their concept of “The Anti-Problem”: ask the team to solve the problem that is the exact opposite to the challenge that they’re currently facing.

Williams then tried to apply the concept to proposals (example: "if we wanted to persuade the client not to choose us, what would we say in the proposal?"). Obviously, the Anti-Problem can be applied to many other situations.

Dave Gray, one of the co-authors of Gamestorming, has discussed the Anti-Problem in a blog post. The post offers some tips on applying the technique:

It is most useful when a team is already working on a problem, but they’re running out of ideas for solutions....

The more extreme the problem’s opposite, the better.

The idea of creating an opposite problem that is as extreme as possible resonates with me. Otherwise, you may be concentrating on trivialities.

Incidentally, Cara Turner takes this idea, an extreme by discussing something called the "Destruction Plan." ( can I write a proposal that not only loses the bid, but also ensures that the customer will never, ever even want to hear my company's name again?)

I'm going to try the technique at some point. I probably won't be able to share the results in this blog, since I'll probably try using it on a confidential job-related item, but if I can, I'll share some generalities about whether the technique was helpful.
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