(Issue #483) Think in Reverse

Ask yourself what you need to do to create what you do not want.

Wasn’t it Einstein who said that if we keep doing the same thing and expect different results, we’re idiots?  Well, I’m sure he didn’t use the word idiots, but you get the point.  We have to break away from tried and tired practices when we confront problems if we want creative and fresh solutions.


Critical thinking requires we first recognize and fully understand the problem (and accompanying assumptions) at hand before we act on a solution.  Before we act, we need to plan.  And before we plan, we may benefit from thinking more creatively about where we want to go; where we want to end up when the problem has been solved.


An article recently reminded me of the power of thinking in reverse. Rather than start with some creative go-to point (which can be daunting), start with envisioning the situation you do not want to see occur.  The “solution” that would be furthest from what you want to accomplish. Start with the opposite of what you want.  Ask yourself what you would need to do to create what you do not want.

Consider this example.


A teacher wants to create the most memorable and impactful lesson that will engage and energize her students.  Rather than start the brainstorming process with what to do she could start by creating the exact opposite of what she wants.  What would she need to do to create the most boring, uninspiring, sleep-inducing class? (Makes me shudder!)  Ok, now that she has that in mind with all the attending specifics, she can identify what she would have to do (specifically) to be that boring, uninspiring, sleep-inducing teacher. This provides an effective starting point to move toward that energizing and inspiring class.  What opposite actions can and need to be taken?


How about a store that wants to draw more customers through the door?  The typical question might be, “What do we need to do to get more people to enter our store and buy merchandise?”


The opposite approach would be to ask, “What do we need to do to drive people away from our business? (Raise prices. Act disrespectful. Make poor quality merchandise. Open late. Close early.)  Now, once you have your answers to those questions, plan your actions to be the opposite of these!


What do you want to create in your workspace, with your family, in a community organization, or at a faith-based gathering?  Start with the opposite and then reverse your thinking.


Have fun…and create the world you want to create.

Video Recommendation of the Week

Above, I mentioned the need to recognize and address assumptions before we start crafting solutions (forward or in reverse!).  Here is a video I recorded more than 7 years ago that presents a simple critical thinking model, starting with recognizing assumptions.


My latest book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on Amazon.  More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes.  I will be conducting (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same.  The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network® (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2019. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®




About stevepiscitelli

Community Advocate-Author-Pet Therapy Team Member
This entry was posted in assumptions, creating your future, Creativity, Critical Thinking, curiosity, Discipline, Life lessons, problem solving and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to (Issue #483) Think in Reverse

  1. Pingback: (Issue #501) A Blogger’s Retrospective for 2019 | The Growth and Resilience Network®

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