When the team is running out of ideas for solutions for a problem, get unstuck by identifying ways to solve the opposite problem.
👥 5 to 20 participants | ⏰ between 30 and 45 minutes
When the team is already working on a problem, but running out of ideas for solutions, this exercise helps your group get unstuck. By asking everyone to identify ways to solve the problem opposite to the current one, it becomes easier to see where a current solution might be going astray or where an obvious solution isn’t being applied.
Make the anti-problem more extreme than it really is—this better helps to break out of existing patterns. The intention is not to eliminate a complex problem or come up with a viable solution in 30 minutes; it is to give your team a new approach that can lead to a solution after the session.
- Before the meeting, find a situation that needs to be resolved or a problem that needs a solution.
- Give players access to sticky notes, markers, index cards, pipe cleaners, modeling clay—any supplies you have around the office that they could use to design and describe solutions.
- Break large groups into smaller groups of three to four people and describe what they’ll tackle together: the anti-problem, or the current problem’s opposite. (For example, if the problem is sales conversion, the players would brainstorm ways to get customers to avoid buying the product.) The more extreme the problem’s opposite, the better. Optional activity: Bring a list of smaller problems and decrease the amount of time allotted to solve them. Make it a race to come up with as many solutions as the group can churn out—even if they’re outlandish.
- Give the players 15–20 minutes to generate and display various ways to solve the anti-problem. Encourage fast responses and a volume of ideas. There are no wrong solutions.
- When the time is up, ask each group to share their solutions to the anti-problem. They should stand and display any visual creations they have at this time or ask the others to gather around their table to see their solutions.
- Discuss any insights the players have gained or any discoveries they have made.