Decision Making Tool: Inversion

Learn and practice using Inversion with exercises.

What is Inversion?

The concept in one sentence:

Consider the opposite of what you want, to understand what can lead you there.

The concept in one quote:

I sought good judgment mostly by collecting instances of bad judgment, then pondering ways to avoid such outcomes.

Charlie Munger

The concept in one image:

How I use it:

I use inversion to help me find obstacles in personal and business projects.


Examples

Example 1

Which option uses inversion?

  • Thinking of ways to achieve my goals

  • Thinking of ways to fail my goals.

Answer:

The correct answer is Thinking of ways to fail my goals.

Inversion is all about asking yourself: “How can you get the opposite of what you want?”, in order to understand what can lead you there and then taking preventative measures.

Example 2

There's a managerial strategy called "Pre-mortem" which consists of imagining that a project failed then working backward to determine what lead to the failure.

Is this a form of inversion?

  • Yes

  • No

Answer:

The correct answer is Yes.

Imagining that a project failed and then trying to determine how it failed is the same as considering the opposite of what you want to understand what can lead you there.


Exercises

Exercise 1

Which book uses inversion?

  • How to be Happy

  • How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use


Exercise 2

You want people to buy more products on your website.
You invert the problem: You want people to buy fewer products on your website.

How do you get people to buy fewer products on your website? (select all that apply)

  • Make the website slow

  • Make sure you have reviews

  • Make sure the website doesn't work properly on mobile

  • Make it mandatory to register to buy a product

  • Make sure to offer the most popular payment methods


Exercise 3

You want a happy marriage.
You invert the problem: You want a miserable marriage.

Which option gives you a miserable marriage?

  • Trust your partner

  • Listen to your partner

  • Don't make time for your partner


Exercise 4

You want a promotion at your job.
You invert the problem. You want a demotion at your job.
You found a way to achieve that: Being unreliable.

How do you become unreliable? (select all that apply)

  • Be late for everything (meeting, work deliverables)

  • Be a team player

  • Regularly give low quality work

  • Don't do assigned work

  • Document and showcase your achievements


Exercise 5

You want to be productive today.
You invert the problem: You want to be unproductive today.
You found a way to achieve that: Spend time on your favorite social app.

What’s the best way to avoid spending time on your favorite social app in order to be productive? (Rank the options below from most effective to least effective):

  1. Log out

  2. Close the app

  3. Use an app that blocks apps (with password lock or challenges to unblock)

  4. Uninstall the app


Exercise 6

There's an old practice by the Stoics—ancient philosophers—called "Premeditation of evils" which consists of thinking about what could go wrong and preparing for it.

Is this a form of inversion?

  • Yes

  • No


Exercise 7

You want to be a good leader.
You invert the problem: You want to be a bad leader.

Which option solves your inverted problem?

  • Lead by example

  • Micromanage my team

  • Open to new ideas

  • Take accountability


Exercise 8

Which is easier to achieve?

  • Avoiding stupidity

  • Being brilliant


Exercise 9

I want to grow my money. I decide to invest in the stock market.

Which option is likely to succeed?

  • Investing in an index fund

  • Investing in a single company that I analyzed


Exercise 10

During a talk, Charlie Munger said the following: "If somebody hired me to fix India, I would immediately say: “What could I do if I really wanted to hurt India?” I would figure out all the things that would most easily hurt India and then I’d figure out how to avoid them."

Is this an example of using inversion?

  1. Yes

  2. No


Answers

Exercise 1:

The correct answer is How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use.

This is the opposite of what people want…I hope.

Exercise 2:

The correct answers are:

  • Make the website slow.

  • Make sure the website doesn't work properly on mobile.

  • Make it mandatory to register to buy a product.

The more inconvenient it is for people to buy, the more likely they won’t buy.

Exercise 3:

The correct answer is Don't make time for your partner.

This option solves your inverted problem—I want a miserable marriage. The other options will probably make your marriage better.

Exercise 4:

The correct answers are:

  • Be late for everything (meeting, work deliverables)

  • Regularly give low-quality work

  • Don't do assigned work.

These answers will lead you down the path of unreliableness.

Exercise 5:

The correct order is 3, 4, 1, 2.

  • Use an app that blocks apps (with password lock or challenges to unblock)

  • Uninstall the app

  • Log out

  • Close the app

The more inconvenient it is to access the app, the more likely you won’t use it.

Exercise 6:

The correct answer is Yes.

Inversion is all about thinking about ways things could go bad and taking steps to prevent it from happening.

Fun fact: The practice is at least 2,000 years old.

Exercise 7:

The correct answer is Micromanage your team.

Micromanaging your team will annoy your employees, damage trust, and isn’t scalable as the company grows.

Exercise 8:

The correct answer is Avoiding stupidity.

Finding ways to avoid common mistakes is much easier than coming up with a genius plan.

Exercise 9:

The correct answer is Investing in an index fund.

Investing in an index fund is less risky than investing in a company that you analyzed. The index fund is diversified whereas if you analyzed the company wrongly, and the stock ends up performing badly, your money will shrink or be lost.

Exercise 10:

The correct answer is Yes.

He flips the problem upside down, finds causes, and tries to avoid them.


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