Assumption reversal resets your mind when in a creative rut. Developed by Michael Michalko, the process involves taking the core essence of an idea or subject matter, and then turning it on its head.
Here’s an example: Teachers give us homework to do at home, right? But what if we reversed the idea: Let’s do homework at school and we listen to the teacher and lectures at home? That’s exactly what Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy did. Sal’s TED Talk on reinventing the classroom in 2011 reshaped long-held beliefs about how we educate and learn.
The Short Story Behind Flipping the Classroom
Sal started creating videos to teach his nephew math. He realized that his video lectures allow students to pause when they need more time to digest information. They can repeat a portion of the video if they don’t quite understand a subject matter, without fear of being judged by classmates or the teacher.
Listening to lectures at home, students can then do their assignments at school and the teacher can give them one-on-one attention, when stuck. Students get personalized education.
Assumption reversal challenges our common sense about how things should be done. Other examples: buying new clothes that are ripped or look old, or the concept of dry shampoo, a product that allows you to shampoo your hair without water.
To be creative, one “must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different”.Michael Michalko
Reversing Our Assumptions About Stores
When shopping at a store, you have to pay for the merchandise before you step out of the premises. Amazon Go challenges this concept. Amazon Go stores let customers pick up any items without going through a checkout line. You literally, shop and leave the store. “Just Walk Out Shopping” uses technology to bypass a critical part of shopping: paying at a cash register. Of course, Amazon charges your account later, but the idea of paying for stuff before you step out of the store, otherwise considered theft, becomes legal.
Practicing assumption reversal not just boosts creativity, but resets our way of thinking. The examples given turned into large-scale enterprise, but that doesn’t have to be the goal. It’s an opportunity to free the mind. It’s like being a kid–seeing things for the first time and not letting ourselves be set in our ways.