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Using the Reversal Technique for Creative Solutions.


Reversal is a good, easy process for improving products and services. You use it by asking the exact opposite of the question you want answered, and then apply the results appropriately.



Imagine that you want to improve the response of designers to customer enquiries. Using Reversal you would ask 'How would I reduce customer satisfaction?'. After considering this question you might give the following answers:

  • Not answering the phone when customers call
  • Not returning phone calls
  • Have people with no project knowledge answering the phone
  • Use rude staff
  • Give the wrong information
  • Etc.

After using Reversal, you would ensure that appropriate design  staff were handling incoming phone calls efficiently and pleasantly. You would set up training programs to ensure that they were giving accurate and effective advice.


There are various combinations of reversal several of which are listed in the table below (using the problem: ‘I require lots of capacity in the Graphic Design Department to manage a few key peak loads, but this means that for much of the time the technology and expertise is idle’):


Type of Reversal



Turn problem into opportunity

Graphic design over-capacity would let us do these other things….

Reverse values

Could wasting graphic design resources be a good thing?

Reverse word order

I need more peak loads to cope with my capacity

Invert problem

The technology is being overused

Reverse phase

Worry about the peaks, not the off-peak idle time

Reverse direction of flow

Instead of jobs flowing into graphic design, it flows into them


Initially the reversal identifies ways to make the situation worse rather than better, you need to recognise why it has been made worse and then re-reverse to identify ways in which the situation could be made better in these respects. We can sometimes be constrained in our thinking for instance putting a lot of thought into ‘how to get rich’ but very little effort into ‘how not to become hard-up’. Thus being forced to think about ‘what would make me hard-up?’ and then re-reversing that to say: ‘and so what would prevent me from becoming hard-up will give a very different perspective than directly addressing: ‘how to get rich.



Use the reversal technique to develop guidelines for design staff to enable them to conduct effective interviews with clients.