Why We Like Backwards Thinking

Using Backwards Thinking to Solve Problems and Develop Marketing Strategies

The right questions are one of the most important parts of ensuring our work is effective for our clients. As we are approached with new opportunities from existing and potentially new clients, we are often asked about very specific capabilities. While that may be a good start to the conversation, this is when we like to think backwards.

We may be told, “We need new packaging”, when the need is really to define our brand, our brand voice, and packaging is certainly one of the tangible things to carry it. We’ve been asked “Can you build us a new website? Our current one is outdated.”  The website may not be indicative of where the brand is today, or provide a great user experience, but the real questions are what do we hope a new website will accomplish?  Answers may be to convert better, to educate about a complex product, but now we’re getting to the real heart of what we’re trying to accomplish and how we’re going to measure success.

By starting from the outcome we often discover that what we were originally were approached to do wasn’t the thing, or sole thing, that would get us there. Or we even get a better understanding of the other elements that are going to help drive towards the goal even if we aren’t tasked with creating them.  We can look at the outcome and hold the logic of how we’ll get there up to the litmus test instead of trying to define the logic along the way

In the book “Thinking Backwards: The Art of Problem Solving in Business”, the authors tackle the subject with the focus on starting with the ambitions and objectives, rather instead of trying to diagnose and solve the problems.  While they build an analytical framework for thinking backwards, the core of it comes back to having that specific, well-defined outcome.

Steve Jobs said, “…you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” While he wasn’t referring to a marketing strategy, there is certainly relevance to an outcome. Jobs also loved simplicity. And while there may be a lot of work and complexities that go into a solution, the simplest question to start with is “What do we hope to achieve with this?”