Invert, Always Invert

Creating dependable roadmaps that can guarantee success is not easy.

But over the last 10 years, I’ve discovered a secret technique to create roadmaps that are foolproof and today I want to share it with you too.

I call this technique, the “Inversion Principle”.

The Inversion Principle

The Inversion Principle means flipping the problem upside down. When you invert a problem, you are defining the outcome you don’t want and then planning out the steps to avoid getting that result.

Here’s how that works.

  • Define the problem – what is it that you’re trying to achieve?
  • Invert it – what would guarantee the failure to achieve this outcome?
  • Finally, consider solutions to avoid this failure

The brilliance of this technique is only realized when you apply it to real-world issues.

“It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”

 Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s business partner) talking about how much this principle has helped him.
Warren Buffet (Left) and Charlie Munger (Right)

When I create roadmaps, I remember that I’m not a fortune teller and I cannot predict the future. I approach Roadmapping (a verb) as an ongoing process following what I call, the “Adaptive Iterative Approach” as coined in my book, “The Value Framework”.

Keeping these shortcomings in mind, when I’m creating roadmaps, I always invert the question and ask myself “how to ensure that the roadmap is a failure?” as a check to avoid stupidity instead of trying to be a genius. Then I actively avoid taking that route.

This may seem like a risk-averse strategy, but it’s not. This has nothing to do with risk, but everything to do with avoiding obvious pitfalls that our biased selves cannot and will not recognize if we do not perform this exercise.

“Once a person has an idea, we then start whacking at it. We invert the concept. Instead of trying to prove a person’s idea, we try to kill it, and if we can’t kill it then the person is onto something. Whether it is my own idea or someone else’s, that is the process we go through.”

 Bruce Berkowitz

In Summary

It’s never easy to decide what to do, but it is easy to define what “not to do” which is the basis of the inversion principle.

It’s easier to avoid being stupid than it is to try being a genius. It’s a technique used by some of the most successful people in the world and now you know about it too.

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