Inversion thinking

The one thing I like about the inversion technique is that it's such a cheat code for life. Every time I've used it, it helped me avoid bad decisions preventing the achievement of any goal.

As a marketer, you can be so focused on what is explicitly required to achieve your goals that stupid – and most importantly, avoidable – mistakes end up costing you that goal.

Look, when we solve problems, most of the time we approach them forwards. We define an important goal, lay out a series of steps to follow to reach that goal, and execute those steps in sequential order.

Sometimes, however, thinking about a problem backward can help us reach a goal or solution when a forward-oriented method is ambiguous.

Instead of focusing on the achievement of a positive outcome, ask yourself: How might I achieve a terrible outcome?

Let that guide your decision making.

Another important thing: Inversion also helps us to see problems from a different perspective. It encourages fresh thinking and ultimately can stimulate innovation.

The techniques of inversion thinking

Stoic philosophers would employ an exercise called the premeditation of evils. They imagine their worst-case scenarios, get over the fear of those results, and create simple strategies for preventive solutions.

Mathematicians, ancient philosophers, thinkers from different scientific fields, innovators, and even billionaires have adopted this approach to meet their own goals and solve hard problems.

Kurt Lewin, the German-American psychologist, came up with one of the theoretical foundations for this type of thinking in the 1930s.

He named it "force field analysis", which pretty much recognizes that in any situation where change is desired, successful management of that change requires applied inversion.

This is his process:

1. Identify the problem

2. Define your objective

3. Identify the forces that support change towards your objective

4. Identify the forces that impede change towards the objective

5. Strategize a solution.

Most of us stop at step 3.

The problem is, once we figure out the objective, we focus on the things we need to put in place to make it happen.

This can be things like a new campaign, a new test on a landing page, a tweak in the messaging.

But Lewin theorized that it can be just as powerful to remove obstacles to change.

This inversion happens between steps 3 and 4. Whatever angle you choose to approach your problem from, you need to follow with consideration of the opposite angle.

Think like this: "What can I do to solve the problem? What can I do to make it worse?"

It's an awesome way to counteract the gravitational pull of confirmation bias, one of the most deadly sins in marketing, in my opinion.

Try understand what kind of messaging would make a prospect steer away from clicking on an asset, or get second thoughts about opting in on a form.

Once you understand that - make it a habit to avoid those things.

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