Tear-down, while not a specific foresight technique, attempts to draw out peoples’ creativity through negative or reverse idea generation of what they actually want. It is a good way to quickly identify the key threats and weaknesses inherent in an issue and to determine different responses and alternate long-term strategies.

Uses of the method

  • Typically used at the end of a foresight project to flesh out potential issues arising from a defined vision, strategy or series of actions,  when something is new or complex to implement or when margins for error are tight


  • Understanding of the downsides of an idea or issue
  • Valuable method to ensure that all the relevant negative  issues have been considered
  • Systematic, comprehensive and multi-purpose
  • Can be used by both individual analysts and teams


  • Requires significant effort to analyze potential failures

Steps to complete

  • Considering the topic, Insight or Trend answer each reverse question in turn without producing any answers
  • List all the things that would make the idea still-born or the issue dramatically worse
  • Avoid criticizing others ideas or censoring people
  • Listen to and build off of others ideas 
  • Generate lots of ideas and allow the session to free-wheel
  • Don't allow discussion or questioning though light clarification of an idea may be helpful at this stage
  • Sort your ideas into clusters
  • Reverse the idea clusters to positive solutions e.g... 'keep the change to our ourselves' to 'openly engage everyone'
  • Look for breakthrough innovations, incremental innovations, new venture innovations and new business models
  • Determine the fixed factors (almost certain hard trends) that will inform your strategic response: slow-changing phenomena e.g. demographic shifts, constrained situations e.g. resource limits, in the pipeline e.g. aging of baby boomers, inevitable collisions e.g. climate change arguments.
  • Capture variable factors: critical uncertainties i.e. variables, soft trends and potential surprises. Both these and the fixed elements will be key to creating scenarios and examining potential future paradigm shifts.
  • Capture unique insight into new ways of seeing that can be utilized by the organization. What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • What conclusions can we draw from the exercise(s)?
    • How might the future be different?
    • How does A affect B?
    • What is likely to remain the same or change significantly?
    • What are the likely outcomes?
    • What and who will likely shape our future?
    • Where could we be most affected by change?
    • What might we do about it?
    • What don't we know that we need to know?
    • What should we do now, today?
    • Why do we care?
    • When should we aim to meet on this?
  • Finish by noting your next steps. Next steps could include a further round of iteration, a recommendation on how to get the answers or use of other research and methods such as 'Starburst' to create more vantage points on the issue. Repeat the exercise from a different perspective e.g. taking another more negative view or an unusual position, or from the viewpoint of another stakeholder.

This method and your response can be shared with other members or kept private using the 'Privacy' field and through the 'Tag', 'Report' and 'Forum' functionalities. Use 'Tag' and/or 'Report' to aggregate your analyzes, or add a 'Forum' to ask others where they agree/disagree and encourage them to make their own analysis from their unique vantage point.

Click the 'Invite tab to send invitations to other members or non-members (colleagues, external experts etc.) to ask for their input. You can whether or not you want anonymous responses.  These can be viewed and exported within the Responses tab.

Further reference

Contact us
Even with all the advice and tools we have provided here starting a foresight project from scratch can be a daunting prospect to a beginner. Let us know if you need help with this method or want a group facilitation exercise or full project or program carrying out by us. We promise to leave behind more internal knowledgeable people who can expand your initiative for better organizational performance.

Contact us today for a free discussion on your needs.

Are there other enhancements or new methods you would like to see here? Let us know and we will do our best to respond with a solution quickly.

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