Wilson Steiner Briefing | Creative Technique Pages  |  May, 2017


The Barstool Man creative thinking technique.

A technique that uses the power of negative thinking to deliver new insights. 

Barstool Man

Allowing yourself the freedom of negativity, cynicism and irony is an ideal way of ‘glancing sideways’ at a problem you have posed yourself.  Reversing the key assumptions behind your problem – and searching for ways in which you might hinder or stop yourself from solving your problem – can help you ‘glance sideways’ and jolt your mind into a different pattern of thought.


Steps to follow: –

  1. Write down an initial statement about your problem.
  2. Underline words or phrases that express parts of your problem that could be made worse.
  3. Generate ideas of solutions that could well make your problem worse or further complicate the situation.
  4. Take each ‘further complication’ and think what the exact opposite of that further complication could be.
  5. Use these ‘exact opposite’ ideas to generate ‘possible solutions’ to your problem.
  6. Use these ‘possible solutions’ as a foundation from which further ideas can be generated.


Remember: –

Understanding problems, and finding the ‘ideal’ solution to a problem, needs to be built on a sound factual base.  It is often useful to give yourself a defined amount of time to collect more information during the creative thinking process to give yourself the ‘factual tools’ to help solve the problem.

There are no right or wrong answers at this stage in the process. Sideways thinking is about generating possibilities.  In generating possibilities you provide yourself with the means of ‘glancing sideways’ – that is taking a sideways step and moving off in a different direction.  Generate the possibilities and examine the possibilities; and only after having done that should you begin to apply the criteria for what constitutes a good solution for you.


Simple example:  –

Write the Initial Problem Statement in the IWWM form:
In What Way Might we stop cats from coming into our garden?

Underlining the elements of the problem that you could reverse:
In What Way Might we stop cats from coming into our garden?

Reverse your thinking and generate ideas that will further complicate your problem rather than solve it.

Take the opposite of ‘Stop’: –
(Googling a ‘Thesaurus’ website will help provide ideas)
Assist, Encourage, Advance, Accelerate, Hasten, Impel, Support, Charity, Promote, Cooperate, Subsidy.  Facilitate.

Take each of these ‘further complication’ ideas and think what the opposite of the ‘further complication’ would be. Then use these ‘opposites’ to step sideways in your thinking.


Promote/Dissuade
Put up notices for cat owners – put up notices for cats – threaten – charge – reason with – repel – make other places more appealing.

Accelerate/Slow-Down or Delay
Improve barriers – make it harder to get through your garden – delay the cat/charge for the return of the cat

Support/Opposition
Form a local group to tackle the problem – get a scarecat instead of a scarecrow

Charity/Profit
Find way of making money out of cats.


Further development: –

Build on these new ‘sideways ideas’ to develop new solutions to your problem

  • Form an online ‘cat dissuasion group’ to generate ideas and experiment with approaches.
  • Provide an area that is more attractive to cats than your garden
  • Detain cats entering your garden and charge for their return
  • Get your own cat and make sure it’s a big one
  • Use ‘silent roar’ lion manure on your garden beds
  • Get an ornamental dog that barks when a cat passes it.
  • Electrify your garden fence.
  • etc!