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Working Backwards

Last updated: 5 April 2023

Working Backwards illustration
Begin with the end in mind

Working Backwards is a problem-solving approach that helps product teams create the best user experience possible. By focusing on end goals and breaking them into steps, product teams can solve problems methodically and efficiently.


The idea of Working Backwards came from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2005. At the time, he asked his developers to imagine they were already in the future and had completed their project. Then, he asked them to work backward from that imagined future state to determine what needed to be done now to get there. Since then, this technique has come to be used widely by many different companies.

How it works

At its core, Working Backwards involves working from the desired outcome and slowly breaking it down into smaller steps until you've identified how to bring it to fruition. By focusing on the desired result first and reverse engineering it, you can gain greater insight into how to achieve it most effectively. The typical approach of starting with a goal or a problem and then trying to come up with solutions for it often leads to an overcomplicated solution that doesn't solve anything correctly.

How to use it

To use Working Backwards, start by defining a clear end goal or user experience that you want your product team or organization to achieve. Once you have this goal defined, take some time to brainstorm ideas about what needs to happen before reaching the outcome. Break these ideas down into smaller tasks and prioritize them based on their importance or difficulty level - this will help you focus on those tasks first to maximize efficiency and productivity. Finally, once you have identified all the necessary steps in achieving your goal, create a timeline with deadlines for each task so your team knows when to complete them.


Working Backwards was successfully applied at Amazon when creating the Kindle e-reader. The goal was for customers to purchase books effortlessly using their devices, but they weren't sure what steps could enable this vision. By using Working Backwards, they imagined themselves in a future where this ideal user experience existed. Imagining this future allowed them to identify the necessary steps—such as creating an online store for customers to purchase books—to make that vision a reality. This approach allowed them to create an efficient plan and drive a successful launch in 18 months.


  • Working Backwards is a problem-solving technique where you start with your desired result and work backwards to come up with solutions for achieving it.
  • This approach clarifies what steps need to take place before reaching your goal.
  • By prioritizing tasks based on importance or complexity and creating timelines with deadlines, you can maximize efficiency while working towards your end goal.


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