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Last updated: 9 April 2023

Inversion illustration
Flip the problem for a new perspective

Inversion is a powerful mental model which involves looking at things from a reverse perspective to find unique solutions. Inversion can solve problems in business, life, and almost any other field where creative solutions are needed.


The concept comes from the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. He said, "The more you know, the more you realize you don't know." This quote calls for people to seek knowledge by inverting their current perspectives. Inversion means looking at things from the opposite angle to gain insight and find possible solutions.

Many prominent thinkers like John Stuart Mill and Carl Jung have since used inversion. In modern times, it has become popularized by tech entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, who have used it to make successful business decisions.

How it works

Inversion works by taking an existing problem or situation and turning it around. By doing this, you can take a fresh look at the issue and consider different ways of tackling it. Rather than focusing on what to do, you can focus on what to avoid or prevent.

For example, if you're trying to increase sales in your business, rather than focusing on how you can grow them further, consider how they could decrease instead. What factors could lead to decreased sales? What actions could prevent this from happening? By looking at the problem from this inverse perspective, you may be able to come up with new solutions that could bring about growth instead of decline.

How to use it

Inversion can help tackle challenging problems that require creative solutions. It's also an effective tool for making decisions as it enables you to avoid pitfalls and focus on prevention rather than cure. Here are some tips for getting the most out of this mental model:

  1. Start with a broad question: Instead of diving straight into finding a solution for a specific problem, ask yourself more general questions such as “What could go wrong?” or “What shouldn’t I do?” Doing this will help you think outside the box and discover new possibilities that may not have occurred to you before.
  2. Make lists: Try writing down your thoughts and ideas as lists or diagrams so you can see all the angles of your problem visually. Inversion will help you spot any potential risks or issues that need addressing so they don't affect your progress further down the line.
  3. Work backward: Once you've identified potential risks or issues from an inverse perspective, work backward from there to find practical solutions for them. By breaking down the steps required for resolving each issue one by one, it'll become much easier for you to come up with creative solutions that could benefit your overall goal in unexpected ways.


One example of inversion was Jeff Bezos' decision-making process when he founded Amazon in 1994. Instead of exploring what he wanted his company to become one day, he asked himself firstly, "What should Amazon never do?" After listing all things he thought his company should avoid—such as neglecting customer service or cutting corners—he could pinpoint which areas were essential for Amazon's success. These questions allowed him to create a clear plan without any distractions, resulting in Amazon becoming one of the world's most successful businesses today.

Another example is Apple founder Steve Jobs who also employed Inversion during his time at Apple Inc., When considering whether they should move into manufacturing computers, he asked himself, "Should we not get into making computers?" After exploring all the reasons why they shouldn't enter this market (such as intense competition), he came up with innovative reasons (such as inventing their own hardware). This decision helped catapult Apple into becoming a leading technology company.


  • Inversion is a mental model which involves looking at things from a reverse perspective to gain insight and uncover innovative solutions
  • Make use of broader questions such as “What could go wrong?” or “What shouldn’t I do?”
  • Write down your thoughts and ideas in lists and diagrams
  • Work backward from here to identify potential issues and develop practical solutions


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