Situation/Solution reversal method (aka reverse brainstorming)

The following are some notes and an applied example* involving the Situation/Solution Reversal Method**. A key benefit of this method is that it helps you capture more requirements or constraints than if you only tackled the problem head on.


Note: Whether you are trying to solve a personal, organizational, or larger societal problem, this is a thinking tool that can help you.


Step 1: Identify the problem.


How can I reduce the amount of time ruminating about my life's work?


Step 2: Reverse the problem.


How can I spend even more time thinking about it?


Step 3: Capture requirements for the 'reversed' problem.

  • Remind yourself to ruminate and even block out time for it on your calendar.

  • As soon as a thought enters your head, switch gears and give it your attention.

  • Give it all of your attention, so that you get absorbed into it.

  • Don't let anyone know that you're secretly still ruminating about it.

  • Read more books about thinking and defining purpose.

  • Continue to believe that unless you figure it out, you won't be able to start doing your life's work.

  • Write down your thoughts in many different areas - notebooks, various electronic documents. So that you lose track of what you had already decided on. That way you have to think about it more!

Step 4: Capture requirements for the original problem.


How can I reduce the amount of time ruminating about my life's work?

  • Start each day reading a reminder that your life's work gets defined as you're working on it. It's problematic framing to think that there is only one version of life that is right. And that you have to figure it out before you can start.

  • Center yourself. See a physical reminder each day about that one project that you want to try and tackle.

  • Have a clear place where you can quickly track ideas (i.e. "save for later" list)

  • The project you work on should include a brief/outline (see Brooke Shaden's project proposals).

  • Engagement in your project should be tracked. Recognize consistent involvement (i.e. the inputs).

  • Have a ritual for starting that work. A song, routine that gets you in the mood. Only have to work on it for 10 minutes.

  • Have a fail safe. When you revert back to ruminating, talk to an accountability partner to whom you can admit that you started thinking too much again.

  • Must be able to deal with the challenges that come with taking a project to completion. Refer to tactics in Jon Acuff's Finish: Give yourself the gift of done.

  • Must be able to deal with our trained automatic response when the cue of 'Is this what I should be working on?' comes into our minds.

Step 5: Compare the requirements generated in both steps above. Ensure each 'reverse requirement' has an opposing requirement.


Structure of the bullet points: Reverse requirements // Opposing requirements

  • Remind yourself to ruminate and even block out time for it on your calendar. // Acknowledge that you might ruminate today. and if you do, you can always read the reminder about your problematic framing.

  • As soon as a thought enters your head, switch gears and give it your attention. // Must be able to deal with our trained automatic response when the cue of 'Is this what I should be working on?' comes into our minds.

  • Give it all of your attention, so that you get absorbed into it. // If you find yourself falling into this trap, talk to your accountability partner.

  • Don't let anyone know that you're secretly still ruminating about it. // If you find yourself falling into this trap, talk to your accountability partner.

  • Read more books about thinking and defining purpose. // Refer to tactics in Jon Acuff's Finish: Give yourself the gift of done.

  • Continue to believe that unless you figure it out, you won't be able to start doing your life's work. // Acknowledge that you are ruminating right now. Read the reminder about your problematic framing.

  • Write down your thoughts in many different areas - notebooks, various electronic documents. So that you lose track of what you had already decided on. That way you have to think about it more! // Have a central document that you write everything related to your project. Make sure you have cues for getting back to this central area. Google Calendar event description has a link to this document. If you use other tools, those tools should link back to the central document.

* All examples are my own.

** Source: Business Analysis & Leadership - Influencing Change (Edited by: Penny Pullan & James Archer)

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