Brainstorming Technique 6: Tug of War

We are half way through our brainstorming techniques and have learnt so much. But there are still a lot more ways that we can improve. Different situations demand different ways to think about them and solve them.

This brings us to our sixth brainstorming technique, dubbed the “tug of war”. Now we have all played this game when were children, where two people or teams on opposite sides pull on a rope and the objective is to pull the rope completely on your side by using force. The tug of war happens when the forces on both sides are more or less equal. This causes a back and forth reaction. In order for one side to win over the other, we will need to add more strength to it, or conversely we can make the opposing side weaker by removing an individual.

The tug of war technique is based on the principle that

  1. All situations have opposing factors, positive and negative, attached to them.
  2. Positive factors can be maximized
  3. Negative factors can be minimized
  4. More positive factors can be added to further “win” at any situation

Why does it work?

The tug of war techniques helps us honestly examine our ideas. By listing down negative forces along with the positives, we are forced to see our shortcomings and can work on those. It allows us to take a long hard look in the mirror and make changes to our strategy based on what we find. Even though we are looking at negatives, we must remember that the end result will be positive. Negative and positive forces are inevitable and in some cases necessary.

Take the battery for example, without positive and negative poles, it would not be able to generate power. We need both the plus and the minus for current to flow.


So, don’t let the negatives drag you down.

This method is ideal when you are faced with a challenge or problem as it really helps you build on your strengths and identify your weaknesses.


How do we do it?

As with other techniques, there is a very effective way to execute the tug of war successfully. There are a few simple steps to follow as below.

Step 1: State your problem or challenge.

The first step is to describe the problem you are trying to solve.

Let’s say you are looking for a job in the private sector and are having a hard time. Your current scenario is that you have some savings which you are using to survive and maintain your lifestyle and you are looking for a position as a manager based on your experience and skills.

Step 2: Describe your most desired state and your least desired state.

The state you are currently at is probably the middle, which is not the best. Ideally, we want to move to the most desired state. So, in our example, we can say that the best-case scenario would be: “Find a job that you love and that pays great!”. The worst-case scenario would be: “Remain unemployed and run out of money”.

Step 3: List down the conditions or factors for each situation.

The factors are any conditions that help or hinder your situation. List the most important factors that are pertinent to finding a job and then plot them on a grid on the positive or negative side.

In this case, we can come up with the following factors:

  • Experience
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Network
  • References
  • Job market
  • Economy
  • Cost of living
  • Liabilities

Step 4: Plot your situation based on these factors

Analyze your positives and negatives and determine where you can maximize your positives or add to them, and minimize your negatives. When you plot the factors on the sides, you will begin to see what is in your favour and what isn’t. Where do your strengths lie? What can you improve on? What can you add? What can you do less of?

Now that you have this information it is clear to see what areas you need to work on. As we mentioned before, your situation in the tug of war can be improve in three main ways: By maximizing your positives, by minimizing your negatives, or by adding new positives.

How can we maximize our positives?

Well, our positives in the example include high level of skills and experience. Can we improve on this by taking some specialized courses. We can look for subsidized courses or even free ones, but add to our knowledge in the meantime. Not only would this make your CV look better, but it would also make you feels better and you would be using all the free time that you seem to have now for something productive. We can maximize our other strengths as well.

How can we minimize our negatives?

One of the negatives is the high rental cost. Perhaps this can be lowered. This doesn’t mean you need to move, because moving has its own costs, but you could get a roommate, for example. You can even list your extra space online as an abode for travellers or couch surfers. Not only will you make some extra money and reduce your costs but you might get to meet some very interesting people, and possibly get some great ideas and increase your network too, which is also a weakness.

Another great way to overcome negatives is to convert them to challenges. In this case, we can ask, how do we increase our network? How do we further lower our costs?

What can we add to the positives?

We can use our positive forces together to create additional positive forces to help in our tug of war. In our case, we can use our positive references to leverage our resumes even more. Perhaps we can add employer testimonials to our profiles and portfolios.

So, you can see that the tug of war method, reveals your enemies so you can defeat them and also identifies your allies so that you can captialize on them. So, the next time you are faced with a problem, fancy playing a game of tug of war.