Q: What is the opposite of brainstorming? A: Sh*tstorming

As you know, I have a new book. (Pro-tip: don’t launch a book during a pandemic.) In any case, I gave a talk about it today and presented the concept of shitstorming (or the HR-friendly name “shtickstorming“).

What is shitstorming? Here is the passage from Chapter 1 (Reverse it.) that explains:

Everyone knows the first rule of brainstorming: don’t criticize ideas. Even with that rule in place, brainstormers are reluctant to share ideas. As a B-school professor, this makes me sad—because it is the truly outrageous stuff that has the potential for a profound insight.

Based on insights from the reversal, I invented a brainstorming hack that I call “Sh*tstorming. When I run ideation workshops, I ask participants to create as many truly awful ideas as they can in an allotted amount of time.

Generating a sh*tstorm does three things for a group:

First, it overcomes the problem of criticizing ideas. The ideas are supposed to suck, so what is there to criticize?

Second, sh*tstorming is a lot of fun and serves as a good warm-up for a traditional brainstorming task.

Third, a sh*tstorm can lead to creative ideas that you normally wouldn’t think of in traditional brainstorming. For instance, someone may say, “That idea is so crazy, it just might work.” Or, after looking at the terrible ideas, you reverse them as well, and see if any of the bad ideas can become good.

The reversal is just one tool in the comedian’s repertoire and is part of a larger skill set we can apply to business: the ability to step out of the (main)stream.

BTW, you can download a sh*tstorming exercise as part of the Shtick to Business workbook which is available for free here.