As knowledge workers we are paid for the quality
of the ideas we generate and turn into tangible business improvements. The generation of these ideas can come about through many means. It could be through the use of data or statistical analysis; benchmarking other industries; historical review of literature; brainstorming; bright spot analysis
… it is a long list. The work of Cal Newport and Todd Henry
articulated how important it is to keep a wide pool of inspirations for you to be able to draw from in the generation of new ideas.
Flipping the script can be an excellent way to look at a problem differently and generate some new momentum in a group session - why not come up with the worst possible idea?
Worst Possible Idea is a Design Thinking technique where team members seek the worst solutions in ideation sessions. The “inverted” search process relaxes them, boosts their confidence and stokes their creativity so they can examine the ideas, challenge assumptions and gain insights towards great ideas. (Interaction design
To practice Worst Possible Idea, as group members we should:
- Come up with as many bad ideas as we can.
- List all the properties of those terrible ideas.
- List what makes the worst of these so very bad.
- Search for the opposite of the worst attribute.
- Consider substituting something else in for the worst attribute.
Mix and match various awful ideas to see what happens.
The “worst idea” process is best started as a surprise, right after the coffee break following the too-often humdrum creative session. Announce the new rules by asking participants to collectively create a list of bad ideas. Really terrible ideas. Awful ideas. Stupid ideas. Illegal ideas. Gross ideas. Then, when everyone’s busy wondering if you’re about to lose your job over this dumb, time-wasting stunt, ask participants to help you turn these worst ideas into good ideas. How? Either think of the worst idea’s opposite, or dig deeper to see if–as bad as the idea is–there’s something of interest or value in the bad idea that actually inspires a good one.
The room was broken up into teams. Each team was assigned a topic and asked to come up with the worst possible idea. As you can imagine, we all dove in, producing ideas for products that assaulted eyeballs with steel blades and no end of other horrible silliness. After all the groups had finished, the exercise leader asked us to pass our ideas to the next table. Now each group was asked to design the circumstances within which the previously bad idea would become a good idea. No matter how disgusting the original bad idea was, each team was easily able to flip things around.