Here’s how it works.
Get a group of colleagues together who work on a shared problem. But, instead of asking for a “brainstorming” of potential great solutions, ask the group to spend 15-20 minutes collecting the worst possible ideas for solving the problem. No bad idea is off the table. There is no bridge too far. The worse idea the better.
Then, have the group select the worst of the worst possible solutions, and take 15-20 minutes to unpack the horrible idea, and see whether there is a nugget of truth that’s embedded in the bad idea. Can that nugget be turned into a good idea? Chances are it can.
Perhaps you are worried about grade inflation at your school, and the worst idea that you come up with is to let parents grade their kids work. Awful idea, I think we can all agree, Academic Leaders. But, this awful idea may unlock new ideas relating to more transparency in the grading process so that anyone grading student work would come to the same grade (perhaps even if the parent was grading the work!).
There are many benefits to this approach. The first of which is that you’ll find quickly that humor has entered the space. When I recently did this exercise there were howls of laughter coming from every table in the room. The approach also unlocks creativity, and alleviates pressure from having “the right idea.”
Give it a try the next time your team is solving a problem.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)