Perspective is a powerful tool. Whenever we make hard decisions, solve big problems or find ourselves stuck, perspective can help us generate better outcomes. Perhaps the most simple and profound method for perspective is inversion.
Inversion is when we look at a problem or goal backwards. We imagine our projects or goals have failed, and then we ask ourselves, "How might we avoid this?". It looks a little like this:
There are two core ideas behind inversion. First, if we can identify all the possible pitfalls, we can plan to prevent them in advance. Second, we can learn just as much from what doesn't work, than what does. So how does it work?
How It Works
Using inversion is simple.
Choose a goal or project.
Brainstorm the bad outcomes. Ask yourself: How might we fail? What are the worst things that can happen? What might lead to this? These could include: barriers, important milestones, worst-case scenarios. Leave no bad outcome unturned.
Brainstorm the good outcomes. Ask yourself: How can we avoid this? Use what you've identified to inform your decisions, or brainstorm better outcomes.
Some other helpful questions we can ask for Step 2:
How could this go wrong?
What would be a bad outcome?
What does a bad decision look like?
What would the opposite look like?
You can use it in teams, or individually. It depends on the goal or project you're weighing up! Speaking of using it in teams, let's just into the pre-mortem.
Inversion is at the heart of the pre-mortem. Chances are you've heard of this before! If you haven't, it's a popular practice used by Project managers that is built on Inversion.
In a pre-mortem, teams focus on the most important goal or project. They then fast forward to the future and imagine it's failed. They'll ask things like: What went wrong? What were the mistakes? How did it fail?
The goal is to identify all the obstacles and potential points of failure so they can develop a plan to prevent them ahead of time. It's pretty clever!
Tying it up
Inversion is a powerful tool for perspective. It can help spark creativity and generate better solutions. By inverting success and planning for failure, we can create stronger solutions and make better decisions.