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Inversion is a problem-solving technique that involves asking “What would we do if we wanted to accomplish the opposite?” It is a form of lateral thinking that encourages teams to consider new and unconventional perspectives on a problem. The technique works by reversing the problem and looking at it from the opposite perspective, which can help to generate new and creative solutions.

For example, a team may be trying to come up with ideas to increase sales, but they can’t come up with any ideas. By using inversion, they would ask themselves, “What if we wanted to DECREASE sales?” This question forces the team to think about what actions they would take to decrease sales, such as reducing marketing efforts, lowering prices, or cutting back on product offerings. By considering these negative scenarios, the team can identify potential solutions that they would not have considered otherwise.

Once the team has identified potential solutions to decrease sales, they can then explore doing the opposite of those ideas to increase sales. 

For example, to reduce sales, one team member may suggest that they never contact a client after an initial sale, which would reduce the likelihood of follow-on sales. The opposite of this idea would be to contact the client right after the first sale and then regularly thereafter. The team might decide that they don’t currently have a good process in place for post-sale follow-up, and develop that as an idea to implement to grow share of wallet and capture more repeat business.

Inversion can be an effective tool for teams to generate new and creative solutions to problems. It helps teams to consider new perspectives, think outside of the box, and overcome the limitations of traditional problem-solving methods. Additionally, by reversing the problem, it allows teams to identify potential roadblocks and obstacles that they may need to overcome in order to achieve their goals.

Image courtesy of The Plaid Zebra


Waste Management Industry: A waste management company is struggling to increase recycling rates in their community. They ask themselves, “What if we wanted to decrease recycling rates?” 

Medical Device Industry: A medical device manufacturer is trying to improve the design of a surgical instrument to reduce the risk of complications during surgery. They ask themselves, “What if we wanted to increase the risk of complications?” 

Telecom Industry: A telecommunications company is trying to improve its customer service to reduce customer complaints. They ask themselves, “What if we wanted to increase customer complaints?” 

Non-Profit Industry: A non-profit organization is trying to raise awareness about an issue. They ask themselves, “What if we wanted to decrease community awareness?”

Further reading:


Will Bachman