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In this article on the Worst Possible Idea Method, we will discuss how you can get participants to actively contribute during brainstorming sessions.

We are all aware that brainstorming from participants is always a challenge because you may get participants who are afraid to share their innovative ideas in front of others.

It is the fear of sharing a terrible idea and making a fool of yourself in front of people. Thus, in this article, we will discuss ideas on how as a facilitator, you can get past these reservations through holding a bad idea brainstorming sessions.

This is a good exercise that encourages the group members to search for the worst ideas in the design thinking method.

This article will tackle the following sub topics on worst ideas in ideation sessions, which can help the team members break free from innovative ideas cut by going from terrible ideas to create greatness:

Bad ideas defined

The terrible possible ideas or also known as bad ideas, is an ideation method where team members purposefully seek the worst ideas in the ideation sessions.

This is known as the The inverted search process, where participants are relaxed, their confidence are boosted, and their creativity are highlighted so they can examine these ideas, challenge their assumptions, and gain insights towards a great idea or ideas.

As the name suggests, during brainstorming a worst idea, what we are looking for are the worst possible ideas. Instead of encouraging the participants to come up with new, useful, and good idea, they are pushed to suggesting ridiculous, worst ideas.

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Thus, the participants are asked to come up with the worst possible idea for the situation. What would be the most ill-advised, unethical, unrealistic or useless approach? Even illegal ideas should be embraced during this design thinking exercise.

The participants should pointedly avoid looking for new ideas or right answers. Instead, this is about listing all the bad idea or answers so that they can get into their creative mindsets.

Why we recommend the bad idea method?

Of course everyone is entitles to explore all possibilities during a creative design thinking ideation session. However, like what we have pointed out previously, some participants may feel reluctant to offer their thinking input, especially when the expectations are high.

In addition, some participants feels terrified to say something, thinking they can be wrong. Thus, we recommend you flipping the playing field and searching for the craziest, awful and superbly worst solutions so that nobody can look silly.

This is why the worst ideation method can help participants to relax and boost their confidence to help ignite their creativity. As the facilitator, you are taking the pressure off their shoulders and giving participants the permission to be playful and adventurous. When participants start to feel more at ease about offering their thoughts, they’re better able to break out of rigid thought patterns in order to see new perspectives and generate novel ideas during the brainstorm sessions.

A bad idea brainstorm method does not put any pressure on the participants. Thus, you do nor need a good idea to contribute. Also and on the contrary, the lousier your idea, the better.

You will find the bad idea session as a lighthearted and fun exercise. because any idea will do. Therefore, participants will feel free to share their thoughts. You can’t possibly mess up, so there’s no reason to be afraid to make a fool of yourself.

By breaking down barriers, this process ensures that all contribute equally. Reserved participants experience that they have no trouble keeping up and this boosts their confidence. All the laughter that naturally follows the terrible ideas makes the group relax even more.

That is not the best part yet. The best part of using this technique is if you analyze all the bad ideas, you will find surprising insights that you might otherwise never have found. Insights, of course, that you can use to design useful solutions.

When do you utilize it a bad idea method?

The bad idea or worst possible idea is typically used during the creative ideation stage since this can be a highly effective method to kickstart the creative process. After participants deconstruct the terrible ideas, they can find powerful insights that may serve as the foundations for later brainstorming sessions. This worst possible idea technique works well as a warm-up activity before further ideation.

Steps in the bad idea brainstorm session

The real power of the worst possible idea is what happens after we start to feel more at ease about offering our thoughts. Although you and the other team members are free to kick back and try to generate for the most silly sounding creativity, there is a method to this madness.

To practice the worst possible idea, the group members should:

  • Come up with as many worst possible bad idea as they could
  • List all the properties of those worst possible idea or ideas
  • List what makes the worst of these very bad ideas
  • Search for the opposite of the worst or terrible ideas attribute
  • Consider substituting something else in for the worst attribute
  • Mix and match various awful ideas to see what happens

How to use it?

Instead of encouraging participants to come up with new and useful ideas, during the worst possible idea method, the facilitator need to push them to come up with increasingly silly and ridiculous ideas. What would the most ill-advised, unrealistic or unhelpful approach be? Continue to read below the steps on how you can utilize the terrible ideas method.


  • The first thing is to define the problem, challenge, or goal statement. You could also utilize the following questions: how might we... ? for this activity.
  • We will use the statement: “How might we give free software trials to the IT professionals?"
  • Finally, will have several post-its also ready for each participant.

Run the Activity

  • Place your challenge statement at the top of the whiteboard.
  • Then, give everyone 5 minutes to privately and quietly write down one bad idea per post-it. Encourage quantity over quality and push the participants to create as many bad ideas as possible.

Brainstorming the worst possible idea

  • Next, have everyone share out their first round of bad ideas. Then, group like-minded ideas together.
  • Put additional 3 or more minutes on the timer and have each participant do one last round of creative ideation, building upon other team member's ideas. This can be done privately or out-loud to generate more insights or participation.
  • Again, you can group all similar ideas together and then begin to list the properties of each bad idea and also what makes them a bad idea.
  • Alongside the bad properties and reasons, now list what the opposite of those would be and substitute good for the bad.
  • Mix and match bad ideas to find what other interesting ideas might emerge.
  • After the activity is over, group together the positive or good ideas and begin to ideate and iterate upon solutions.

The fear of sharing ideas

While a brainstorm session can be fun and inspiring, some participants freeze when they’re asked to share their creative ideas. We have learned in this article that convincing the participants to join an ideation session can be quite a challenge.

This happens when the expectations are high or when we are looking for a brilliant solutions from the participants. This tends to terrify them to participate and say something wrong. It can be scary to share your first idea in a creative session. What if others make fun of your idea? What if they tear apart a good idea that might be phrased a bit clumsily? It’s total humiliation you’re risking. Better to be safe and silent.

As facilitator of a creative brainstorming session, it is your duty to have to deal with reluctance case like this. Luckily, we have discussed the ways to get these participants to get their creatively juices warmed up.

One possible solution is to start the brainstorming session with a warming up exercise by asking the participants to discuss a ridiculous what if statement, for example. What if all apps would be free of charges? What if every person in the world had a monkey as a pet?

By allowing your participants to discuss what such a world would look like, will help everyone to relax and laughingly, fantasizing such a ridiculous situations could ease participates into the practice of sharing the most odd, and worst possible ideas ever existed. After a few minutes of this kind of craziness, sharing silly and wild ideas is not nearly as scary anymore.

The Take Away

The worst possible idea technique is a fun and effective ideation and icebreaker technique. This creative ideation method is what your team needs to be able to extract and come up with amazing ideas from really bad ideas.

The worst possible idea is a lateral thinking method which is very much about standing back, looking at the big picture and understanding concepts. It also requires that you focus on the parts that have perhaps been overlooked, challenging assumptions and seeking alternatives.

It’s a great way of zeroing in on what will work by exposing what won’t, but then working out or working back elements from these “bad ideas” that may have a bearing on the true answers or solutions to the existing problem.

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Mary Ann Dalangin

About the author

A content marketing strategist and a UX writer with years of experience in the digital marketing industry.

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