Reverse Thinking and Innovation

Reverse Thinking and InnovationTrying to force yourself or your employees to magically come up with new ideas can sometimes prove pretty fruitless. Many employees already feel like they are trying their best and would gladly pitch an idea if they had one, yet as an administrator you feel that there are clearly areas where you can improve, they’re just sometimes difficult to find.

We’ve written recently about process excellence and how small changes to the way your business operates can create as big of an impact as a brand new idea. But how do you find those areas where you can improve those processes?

One of the ways you can approach finding new ideas is by changing the way you approach gathering those ideas, and one of those new approaches is what’s called “reverse thinking“. Reverse thinking involves addressing the opposite of the problem you’re trying to solve, so instead of attempting to find solutions for a specific problem, try to find what could cause more of the same problem. We realise this sounds a little unconventional at first, but you’d be surprised at how reverse thinking can help your company really hone it’s processes.

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia CommonsTo use an example, let’s say we have a company that runs a website and develops a paid app for cycling directions in a very busy urban area. They’ve been noticing that frequently people sign up to the website, download their app, and then stop using the service after a few days. While taking into account the natural flow of interest and disinterest in cycling, they seek to find a way to address the low retention of their product, but whenever they pitch the question of “How do we keep people using our website and app?” they get only crickets from employees who feel that, by responding to support requests and investing time in marketing, they’re doing all they can to encourage retention.

Using reverse thinking, the company rephrases the question. “How can we discourage people from using our website and app?” This sounds a bit silly at first, but the company encourages employees to let loose and provide as many suggestions as possible which include:

  • Charge for the app
  • Make it difficult to download
  • Hide crucial buttons from the menu
  • Hide the login button
  • Make the website loading time take long
  • and others.

After the company collects all of the suggestions, they then go through them one by one. Some suggestions are immediately counteracted, such as the charging for the app example, as they don’t charge for the app, but others make them think harder about their process. Is the app difficult to download? This makes them look into ways of making the app more easily available on the website. And other suggestions help them rethink how they perform. So when they consider the crucial buttons on their menu, they find that some employees who have used the app find it difficult to use while cycling, so they then consider ways of changing their interface that might be more accommodating.

While it seems silly at first, it’s a great way to get your employees thinking about the ways they can improve the processes of your business and in turn solve a lot of the problems that may plague your company. Innovation shouldn’t just be about coming up with a new product or a new approach, but also about improving your current approaches to retain customers.
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Simon Hill is CEO and co-founder of Wazoku, an idea software company, an Associate Director with the Venture Capital Firm FindInvestGrow and an active member of the London technology and entrepreneurial community.

This entry was posted in Consumer Innovation, Innovation, Leadership, Management, People & Skills, Processes & Tools, Product Innovation, Social Innovation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Reverse Thinking and Innovation

  1. Pingback: Innovation Excellence | Reverse Thinking and In...

  2. Mary Ann Lowe says:

    Coming from a special education background, this is what we do with for children with behavior problems. We look for the antecedent which is the issue/problem just prior to the outbreak or behavior. Once that is discovered, the issue/problem is dealt with to develop a solution.

    I definitely see how this could work in other areas of education or business.

  3. Pingback: Open Innovation | Pearltrees

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