We all like to think we’re instinctively creative thinkers but we’re not. Overcoming the constraints our existing mental maps impose and the unconscious pattern-matching that filters our senses and thoughts makes the process of thinking of and assessing new ideas hard cognitive work.
So we avoid or are deflected from doing it. When it comes to creative thinking our brains often are not our best allies.
When you feel you’re stuck in a rut, succumbing to groupthink or simply at an impasse with respect to generating options try looking at the flip side.
This is a straightforward technique called “reversal”. Consciously thinking about the opposite position or situation – however contrived – can be a powerful catalyst for new ideas and insight. If you’re trying to change: How can you guarantee the status quo? If you’re trying to improve: What can be done to make things worse?
Sounds too easy? Here are two short videos (~5 minutes total) that drive the point home and provide visual and emotional hooks to hang the idea on.
The first is an award-winning video from UK publishers Dorling Kindersley called the Future of Publishing. It addresses the view that physical books will become less relevant in a digital world populated by a cynical new generation of digital natives. In a stunning (and literal) reversal of the opening argument we may think otherwise (Be sure to watch past the midpoint!)
The second offering comes from Derek Sivers in a presentation made at TED India. He introduces thought-provoking examples from his travels that illustrate viable options exist as opposites to aspects of the world we take for granted in urban western society. His advice: ask the question “Could the opposite be true?”
So the next time you feel blocked in your thinking, whether alone or in a group, try asking: Could the opposite be true? Even if the answer isn’t useful the process certainly will be.