The Anti-Problem Retrospective


The Anti-Problem tecnique can help a team get unstuck when trying to solve a problem, or to generate new ideas. Instead of solving the actual problem, the team solves the reverse problem. By asking team members to identify ways to solve the opposite problem to their current problem, it becomes easier to see where a current solution might be going astray or where an obvious solution isn’t being applied.

Use it when you want to…

help your team to solve a problem. By identifying a way to do the opposite, it is easier to see the main points where a solution will fail. It also helps the team think about what a successful solution looks like, because the opposite is clearer.

Length of time:

Depending on the size of the team, 45 minutes should be enough.

Materials (Basic)

Cards or wide Post-It Notes
White board or flip-chart paper


Make this more fun and game-like by:

  • making sure that the opposite questions are more extreme than you would otherwise do;
  • encouraging fast responses and a volume of ideas.

How it works:

  1. Before the Retrospective, find a situation that needs to be resolved or a problem that needs a solution.
  2. Give team members access to sticky notes, index cards, markers, modeling clay and any supplies you have around the office that they could use to design and describe solutions.
  3. Break your team into smaller teams of three people and describe what they’ll tackle together: the anti-problem, or the current problem’s opposite. (For example, if the problem is sales conversion, people would brainstorm ways to get customers to avoid buying the product.) The more extreme the problem’s opposite, the better.
  4. Give your team some minutes (e.g. 20 minutes) to generate and display different ways to solve the anti-problem. Encourage volume of ideas and fast responses.


Sometimes you need to come up with several possible solutions to a problem, and this is when the Anti-Problem Retrospective can be useful. Little to no analysis is needed for this activity. Its purpose is to help teams look at a problem in a different way and break out existing patterns.

If you like you can find more techniques in my e-Book: