The Reversal Technique

By Martin Gilliard

The reversal technique challenges you to list your assumptions about a particular subject area and then to simply reverse those assumptions to try and make them work.

I have included a few examples below to help you better understand the technique and help you on the path towards challenging common assumptions by reversing them!

reversal technique

(Photo Credit: Man vyi)

Example 1: A New Bar

Suppose for example you wanted to open a new bar in your area. One assumption might be that all bars have bar staff.

beer vending machine

Using this technique you would take the opposite of this assumption. So I will start a bar with no bar staff.

Now you have to look for ways to make this reversal work.

Would it be possible to have some kind of vending machine distribute the drinks to the customers?

Could customers pre-order / pay for drinks via their personal phone/organizer?

Is there a way to get customers to serve other customers?

(Photo Credit: Jennifer Pickens)


Example 2: A New Library

You're tasked with reducing library expenditure. An assumption might be that people visit the library to lend books.

mobile library

If you were to take the reverse of this assumption then the library would visit the lenders. Thinking of how this reversed assumption may work you might consider implementing a mobile library service. Where people could sign up and have a mobile library unit come and visit them.

Or perhaps you offer more books in electronic form and start to load books via some form of digital software service. In my local area both of the above ideas are already being put into place.

(Photo Credit: quisnovus)


Sometimes reversing assumptions can lead to crazy ideas but by applying this process every so often you might hit on something that feels like it might just turn out to be a winner. 

Reversing common assumptions can lead to new visionary ideas. This is often why kids are so creative because they are not limited by the assumptions that we have gained through our lifelong experiences.


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