Make it Worse

Of all the problem solving techniques we use in our sessions, not one is embraced as quickly and enthusiastically as the technique ‘Make it Worse’. People love to think of ways to worsen a situation.

Every challenge can be approached in various ways. The way you look at a situation determines what kind of solutions you will think of. If you want to generate more (and more creative) ideas, it’s a good idea to approach your challenge from different angles.

A great way to force yourself to look at your challenge from a new perspective, is by making the situation worse…

Counter-intuitive as this might be, it often leads to surprising insights you can use to generate brilliant ideas.

The technique we like to call ‘Make It Worse’ consists of three steps.

Step 1. How could you make this situation even worse?
Step 2. What would be benefits of this aggravation?
Step 3. Use the insights step 2 provided you with to generate as much ideas as possible for tackling the initial problem.

Obviously the first step is the easiest. Most people are masters in finding ways to make any situation worse. Let’s look at an example to see how this technique works in practise:

Insect problem
Imagine for a moment you are a farmer with a huge piece of farmland. You are the proud owner of a flourishing business. But something is, quite literally, bugging you: insects. Hordes of sap-sucking critters are killing your plants and causing you a headache. Something has to be done.

Luckily someone told you about the technique ‘Make it Worse’, so hesitantly you start thinking of ways to worsen your situation. What would make this problem even worse?

An obvious way to make the situation even more dramatic would be to add more insects. If you would actively spread more bugs across your fields the damage would be even greater.

So far this does not make you any happier. It’s time to go to the second step: figuring out what could be possible benefits of this worsened situation. You start imagining the new situation (with even more insects) and its implications. You realise that a huge swarm of bugs will soon finish eating all the plants. Having nothing left to eat they quickly get very hungry. Chances are that in total desperation the creatures will start nibbling on each other!

How could the benefits of your worsened situation help you solve your situation? Can the thought of insect-eating insects lead you to a solution? Of course it can. It gave you a valuable insight: you can combat insects with insects. You start making plans and later that week drones filled with predatory mites are flying over the fields, dropping their tiny insect assassins as they go. The mites you spread in the fields enthusiastically start eating the harmful bugs until they’re all gone. You did not only get rid of your problem, but you did it without using toxic pesticides!

As you can see, fantasising about ways to make the problem bigger can actually help you find the insights you need to solve it.

In what ways could you make the challenge you currently face even bigger?


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