Hello! My name is Arthur, and I have been working as an operations manager at GT in a British startup Profisy for 3 years. And it's one of the few pillars of stability in my life, considering how crazy the last 3 years have been.
Every day I make hundreds of business and personal decisions, and when I think about their quality, I understand that there is still space for improvement.
It turns out I'm not the only one. For example, in a 2018 McKinsey Global Survey on decision-making, only 20 percent of respondents say their organizations excel at decision-making.
Only 20%! I believe, for all of us, there is a space to improve our personal decisions too. Therefore, I decided to share my discovery, of how not to get into the 80% statistics. It is both practical and time-tested.
It’s called Inversion.
Inversion in decision-making
Try to recall how you usually approach problems.
If you want to get healthier - you think of which healthy habits you should acquire.
If you want to make meaningful relationships in your life - you’re thinking of how to be a good friend or partner.
If you want to achieve certain business goals - you’re thinking about what you should do to achieve them.
And so on. You got the point. That’s thinking about the problem in one direction - forward. When we invert the problem - we think about it backwards.
By thinking backwards, you can think of what you shouldn’t do to be unhealthy. What kind of person not to be to make meaningful relationships? What you shouldn’t do in business that will drag you away from achieving your goals.
If you want to sell more think of what stops customers from buying. If you want to be more productive think of what makes you unproductive. How not to build a product. How not to be a bad manager. How not to lose money.
A backward view can reveal surprising insights. Inversion helps us consider different perspectives and improve our understanding of the problem. It also gives us a good starting point for solving complex problems. Or avoid making stupid decisions.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come naturally to most of us but we are better off when we think about the problem both ways.
It is the tool some of the best thinkers use
Jeff Bezos, who doesn’t need an introduction, in one of his old interviews was talking about a very common question he gets very frequently: ‘What's going to change in the next 10 years?’
And then wonders that he never gets the opposite question: ‘What's not going to change in the next 10 years?'.
And then he adds:
‘I submit to you that the second question is actually the more important of the two. In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that's going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want a vast selection. It's impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,' [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you'd deliver a little more slowly.' Impossible.’
By thinking inversely in such a case, he makes a point that ‘you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.’ And ends with: ‘When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.’
I will summarize by confirming your possible doubts - yes, inversion will not always solve your problems and will not be the only compass for decision-making. However, it will definitely help you get a more comprehensive view of the situation. I use it and recommend it to you.