When you need to come up with a solution, it seems the best thing to do is to imagine the worst idea possible. Begin by asking yourself questions like: “What would be the wrong way to solve this problem?” “What do our customers absolutely not want?” “What could we do to make our best employees quit?” “How can we make sure we hire the worst person?”
Try to come up with ideas that would get you laughed at (or even fired) and then work backward to find new solutions. This process is called “wrong thinking” or “reverse thinking” and it isn’t always easy to do. If you get stuck, try to see the problem as a beginner would. What would someone who knows nothing about the issue suggest? When you give yourself permission to entertain the worst ideas, you often come up with the best ones.
Adapted from “To Come Up with a Good Idea, Start by Imagining the Worst Idea Possible,” by Ayse Birsel