The LUMA Institute best summarizes the ‘what’ of this valuable brainstorming activity – ‘Alternative Worlds’ is a way of using perspectives to help generate fresh ideas. Creative thinkers don’t conjure great ideas from nowhere; instead, they look at common things in an uncommon way.
Alternative worlds is an exercise where you have your team intentionally solve a problem from a different point of view (a famous person, another individual, a creative organization, etc). It helps teams break down mental barriers to solving a problem within their personal context and opens up new possibilities for great ideas.
As facilitators, we are frequently called upon to support teams and leaders in their search for new and different ideas for vexing issues. It can be difficult for participants to remove themselves for their own perspectives – often, they let constraints (real and imagined) cloud their ability to think of new ideas.
Alternative Worlds gives participants the freedom to develop new ideas.
While there are many variations for this activity, my approach described below has worked the best for me.
Before you begin…
Step by Step
Separate participants into groups of 4-5 people.
Each group brainstorms entities (companies; brands; people) that represent innovative problem solvers.
- Use sticky notes, one for each entity
Each group discusses the list they generated and identifies the entities known to everyone in the group.
Each group selects one innovative problem solver from their list.
- Variation: You may include a step to review/share everyone’s inspirations to ensure no two groups use the same inspiration.
Have each group brainstorm answers to the following question: How would ________ solve our problem statement?
- Use sticky notes, one for each idea
Analyze your ideas using another visually-based facilitated group process (like affinity mapping or impact/effort prioritization)
Check out these great links which can help you dive a little deeper into running the Alternative Worlds practice with your team, customers or stakeholders.