People management


In project management, there are several steps to follow when a project manager proposes an idea, and one of such actions is brainstorming with team members. Brainstorming is a differing tool for generating ideas on a given subject in a period. It is usually conducted in a facilitated environment to seek creative thinking, to provide […]

It is usually conducted in a facilitated environment to seek creative thinking, to provide solutions to innovative problems and to cultivate ideas. Brainstorming offers the answer to how what and where questions.

Although Brainstorming is vital in the ideation stage of a project, the conventional method isn’t necessarily effective as it in-fact puts teammates under a lot of pressure and impedes their creativity. It is advisable to start a brainstorming session with encouraging members to put out bad ideas that come to mind first. This thought process is known as ‘Worst Possible Idea Brainstorming’.

According to IDF 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.

Renowned public speaker and product branding enthusiast Steve Portigel gave an insight on the reverse effect of worst possible ideas in a brainstorming session, he said:

“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.”

The “Worst Possible Idea Brainstorming” process is best started as a surprise. Although it’s a session for accumulating terrible ideas, there should be rules set in place. Announce the new rules by asking team members to create a list of bad ideas, combine these ideas and flip them at the end of the session to see the masterpiece created.

To practice the “Worst Possible Idea Brainstorming” process in details, project managers and team members should:

  • Draw up as many bad ideas as they can.
  • Make a list of all the components of those bad ideas.
  • List what makes the worst of these so very bad.
  • Look for the reverse of the worst component.
  • Consider putting something else in for the worst attribute.
  • Juxtapose various awful ideas to see what happens.



What is the thing about the worst possible ideas that make them the chief cornerstone of decision making? How can we imagine the worst way to go around a problem make them the most valuable? Here are a few reasons why we think ‘worst possible ideas’ are vital for ideation:

IT LOWERS PRESSURE: Been in a traditional thought showering or brainstorming session can be a complicated process. Members of a team are gathered in a board room and given a blank sheet to pen down their ideas on a project. But that’s how far it goes, the blank sheets remain blank or with scribbled ideas because they are under a lot of pressure to turn up something creative.

Encouraging team members to be free of any pretence of being overly creative or putting down good ideas melts the self-consciousness and self-editing away. The team members let go of the invisible pressure cowering over them in the traditional brainstorming session and give out whatever it is that comes to mind, which may be just what you are looking for.

IT LOSSES UP TEAM MEMBERS: Eliminating pressure in team members welcomes a cheer to the brainstorming activity. The humour and laughter that comes with the action loosen the team members, and the positive energy can be put to the good news.

BUILDS ON THE SELF-ESTEEM OF MEMBERS OF THE TEAM: Allowing team members to suggest their worst possible ideas at the ideation stage isn’t just boosting the project, it is also helping the individual’s self-esteem. If team members can suggest whatever ideas that come to mind without the fear of being ridiculed, mocked or judged by the manager or fellow teammates thereby putting them in a vulnerable spot then they build a trust system in the team on themselves.

IT PROVIDES A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: Worst possible ideas brainstorming sessions should be free of the complexities of superiority. When it comes to generating bad ideas, everyone should be involved regardless of your position in the organization. Suggesting a worst possible idea puts you at a level playing field whether you are a creative director or the lowest in the hierarchy in the team.

OPENS UP SPACE FOR ‘BOMB’ IDEAS: In the end, this is the ultimate goal of using the worst possible idea brainstorming process. Starting a brainstorming session with bad ideas clears up the pathway for better views and various possibilities. It opens up the doors to good ideas. By putting the awful ideas out there, team members can adapt, flip, combine, or move on from the bad to the good.

Project managers may be used to carrying out brainstorming sessions the traditional way, but the conventional approach is not just annoying; it may not be working for your team as well. If you are at the ideation stage of a project and you and the team are stuck, stop forcing the team to come up with a good idea, and encourage them to think of the worst way to solve it instead.

Afford yourself and your team the time and space to go for the worst possible ideas thoughtfully. Then and there, take these ‘worst’ ideas and flip them around, explore the opposite, adjust and combine ideas, or look for a hint of a good inside the bad. Please sit back and see where it leads you. You might end up with a “bomb” idea on your hands.

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