Benefits of Worst Possible Idea

Unleashing Creativity: Brainstorming Ideas with the “Worst Possible Idea”

February 25, 2024 | Lavaneesh Gautam

Ever feel like your brainstorming sessions are more like brain-drizzling sessions?

Photo by Per Lööv on Unsplash

Innovation often thrives on unconventional thinking, pushing boundaries to explore what’s possible. Traditional brainstorming techniques, while useful, sometimes keep us tethered to safe and predictable ideas.

Creativity often doesn’t come at the mere push of a button; it’s not as simple as flipping a switch to illuminate a room. Sometimes lack of psychological safety or courage can also lead to resistance to sharing ideas as they are stifled by fear of failure or ridicule.

For many, sparking creative thought requires a bit of preliminary effort, akin to warming up before a physical workout. Just as muscles need to be loosened and stretched to perform optimally, the mind too needs to ease into a state conducive to generating ideas. This warm-up phase is crucial, serving to transition the brain from its routine, everyday mode of thinking into a more fluid and expansive creative state.

Photo by Gabin Vallet on Unsplash

In such situations facilitation technique ‘Worst Possible Idea’ could be really useful. 

What Is “Worst Possible Idea” Facilitation Technique 

The “Worst Possible Idea” technique is as intriguing as it sounds. It flips the script on traditional brainstorming by inviting participants to come up with the most terrible, absurd, or impractical ideas possible. This approach has a twofold benefit: it reduces the pressure to be perfect and unlocks a level of creativity that’s often stifled by the fear of failure or ridicule.

This is where you and your team become villains of practicality, champions of the ridiculous. The goal? To come up with ideas so bad, they might just circle back to brilliance.

Gathering all the really bad ideas together, a facilitator can help the group think about them more deeply. The team can look at the opposite of these bad ideas or talk about why these ideas are not good. Interestingly, this process can actually lead to some really good ideas.


How To Facilitate the ‘Worst Possible Idea’ 

Worst Possible Idea Facilitation

Step 1: Identify the Focus Area

Start with setting the context. What problem are we trying to solve? This could be

  • Conceptualising new features to solve user experience problems (e.g. Design or Discovery sessions like Product Backlog Refinements) 
  • Identifying areas to tackle technical debt during Sprint Planning 
  • Communication and collaboration, Workflow efficiency or quality of work during Sprint Retrospectives 

Step 2: Generate “Worst Possible Ideas”

Ask team members to think of the worst possible ideas for improving in the selected focus areas. These should be ideas that, if implemented, would likely make the situation worse or more challenging. Encourage creativity and ensure the environment is non-judgmental.

A few facilitation tips during this step: 

  • Give each participant their individual space to come up with ideas. They can do silent writing. 
  • Make sure to timebox this individual silent writing. 
  • In person? Use sticky notes. Online? Go for Mural, Miro, or MS Teams Whiteboards kind of tool to share ideas.

Step 3: Discussion & Analysis 

Have team members share their “worst possible ideas”. Discuss why these ideas are bad and what negative outcomes they would lead to. This part can be entertaining, but it’s also a gateway to deeper insights.

Through discussion, aim to uncover the underlying issues that make these bad ideas seem so counterproductive. This can help the team identify real obstacles and areas for improvement.

A few facilitation tips during this step:

  • People can have this discussion and analysis in smaller groups or pairs, then have them share their key points with everyone else.
  • In the larger group, similar ideas can be grouped. Duplicates can be removed. 

Step 4: Flipping the Ideas

Once the worst ideas have been thoroughly discussed, challenge the team to flip them into positive actions or solutions. What would be the opposite of these bad ideas? How could these opposites address the underlying issues identified?

Work as a team to transform the “worst” ideas into viable solutions. This creative inversion process can reveal unique approaches that hadn’t been considered previously.

This step often leads to creative and innovative solutions that might not have been considered in a conventional brainstorming session.

Step 5: Prioritise and Plan

From the list of flipped ideas, identify those that are feasible and could potentially add value to the focus area. Prioritise and identify which ideas to take into the next stages. Create an action plan to turn ideas into reality. 


Key Benefits of Worst Possible Idea 

Encourage Participation 

The playful nature of coming up with bad ideas can level the playing field and get everyone involved. This method can jolt participants out of conventional thinking patterns and even engage people who usually are silent because of a lack of psychological safety or fear of failure or ridicule. 

Enhanced Creativity

It pushes the team to think outside the box and consider solutions they might not have otherwise. It helps in fostering a creative and open environment where participants can think freely without fear of judgment.

Enhanced Team Collaboration 

The process of generating and flipping ideas. Sharing “worst possible ideas” can foster a sense of camaraderie and mutual understanding within the team. This increased level of trust can strengthen team dynamics and collaboration.

Increased Problem-Solving Skills

By examining why bad ideas are bad, team members develop a deeper understanding of the problem and what makes solutions effective. This deeper dive into the anatomy of ideas fosters a more strategic mindset, equipping team members with the ability to discern and develop more viable, impactful solutions.

Benefits of Worst Possible Idea

Conclusion 

In essence, the “Worst Possible Idea” technique can be a versatile tool, applicable whenever a team needs to shake up their standard approach to problem-solving, foster a more inclusive environment, or simply inject some fun into the brainstorming process.

Integrating this technique into various occasions such as sprint planning, retrospectives, refinements or design sessions, is a great way to break the monotony of routine discussions and inspire your team to approach challenges from entirely new angles.