When I was doing a course on problem solving I was introduced to the concept of reverse / negative brainstorming (I think it is called thought showers these days.) The idea is to think of an issue or problem and look at the worst way to solve it. The theory is then to look at the reverse of these points to discover the best way forward.
I used this technique to solve the problem of introducing computerised systems to Probation staff. For younger readers this was 20 years ago. So we spent a happy session filled with laughter with ideas like – don’t issue any user manuals or offer any training, shout at people and threaten them if they continue to use paper-based systems. Reverse the ideas and you start to solve the problem. You get the idea.
The editor of a trade magazine, Care Management Matters, has used the technique to ponder the worst possible way to develop social care in order to meet the needs of a growing older population and reduce the impact on health services. Just pick up a Newspaper to read headlines about the crisis in A & E departments, lengthening waiting lists and the difficulty of getting a GP appointment if you do not think this is a problem. So here is his (and my) reverse brainstorm / thought shower:-
- Ignore the fact that social care is being underfunded and reduce council budgets year on year.
- Talk about integrating health and social care, but do nothing about it.
- Continue to make budgeting and planning decisions in silos………..
- Throw more money at the NHS, especially hospitals, rather than investing in preventive services.
- Increase social care eligibility criteria, so fewer people get services.
- Accept chronic loneliness and social isolation as collateral damage and blame families / society for the consequences.
- Tender for homecare contracts at the lowest possible price so workers paid at the minimum wage.
- Ditto for publicly funded nursing and residential home places.
- Blame CQC and commissioners when minimum standards are not met.
- Do not worry about recruitment and retention problems in social care services.
So now all we need to do is look at the reverse of these points and we start to see a solution to our problems ………….but wait a minute these negative points sound familiar. I can only assume that the powers that be forgot to carry out the second part of the exercise. Reverse the negatives, these are not the solutions.
With thanks to Robert Chamberlain of Care Management Matters