Opposite thinking

Look hard at how your industry works now. Then see what might happen if you do the opposite.

If you were looking at the web design industry, the exercise might start [and I mean start – you could definitely get much more hard core than this…] in a list looking something like this:

  1. No time sheets
  2. Take holidays when you need them because your “Job” is actually your “Calling”
  3. Client work takes place on client premises
  4. Projects are completed on time every time
  5. A person is only ever working on one project at a time
  6. Wear professional attire
  7. Spartan offices
  8. All meetings take place at client premises
  9. All staff pay is tied to company profit
  10. Clients pay only on performance
  11. Help desk would be one of the most important roles in the business
  12. Clients would never feel confused
  13. All meetings have an agenda and a time-frame
  14. All client interactions are paid
  15. All IP is publicly available
  16. Everyone can work from anywhere
  17. No one accrues sick leave – it’s taken when you need it
  18. Financial reports are shared
  19. Board meetings are open
  20. No account managers
  21. No pitching/tenders without proper planning
  22. Always give the best recommendation first, then choices second
  23. Always make recommendations as though it was our money that was being spent

Banker to the Poor (The Story of the Grameen Bank), is written by Muhammad Yunus (twitter) and is the inspiration for this post.

Since 1976 the Grameen Bank, has delivered micro-credit loans to the poorest in Bangladesh. It claims a 98.35% repayment rate – an astonishing figure and incredible achievement!

How did they do it?

  1. No contracts (therefore no police, no lawyers)
  2. No collateral
  3. Loans are given to individuals only if there are groups of 5 that need the loans
  4. 98% of borrowers are women
  5. Bankers go to the people, not people to the bank
  6. All loans have a 12 month maturity
  7. All loans are repaid weekly
  8. 20% interest rate on all loans

These are just the start of what Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen bank have done to turn the banking industry upside down to enable some of the poorest people in the world to access credit, start businesses, and bootstrap themselves out of poverty.

I’d be really interested to hear if anyone else has applied this idea of “opposite thinking” in any other way. Let me know.

8 thoughts on “Opposite thinking”

  1. Our example is the shoe industry. Current thinking is “make a shoe, then find a foot (person) for it”. We are now doing the opposite. Find a foot (person), then make a shoe for it.

  2. Pingback: Education opposites

  3. Toby my head is whirring! This is an awesome concept. I could pay my clients to do my job, because I love it, then choose someone with an amazing life and purpose to translate into space. Reverse the economy totally. A bike maker might see me and say I have the perfect bike for you. etc. Thanks for the inspiration, I plan to sit down and opposite out surroundings this weekend.

  4. @Suzie Wiley

    Great to hear Suz! I’d love to see what happens when you “opposite out” Surroundings. I’d love to see some of your Opposite List too when you’re done (only if you’re comfortable of course). The process was really liberating for me – it makes you question some of the most basic things you do.

  5. @Sharon – we’re trying to think like this at Bluewire. I’d love your ideas on “flipping the script” on how we operate. Sometimes not being involved or having no experience in an industry is the best starting point for genuine opposite thinking. Because you don’t have any preconceived ideas and haven’t been told “how it should be”, you can question much more freely. Challenging the status quo is critical to us improving so please challenge!!

  6. @Toby, now that you mention it I can see many ways that you do it at Bluewire. You’re very transaparnt regarding invoices, profit, pay scales. You also seem to be happy not “boxing” people into their official roles. Like Shanooon is moving into a sales and client face to face role. Many companies would have him boxed as a computer head and keep him there. I think more of that diversity in everyones role is good. Allowing peopple to spread their wings and find other gifts. I’ve genuinely been impressed with Bluewire. In a short time you have generated trust and built a strong relationship with me. I think the transparency has a lot to do with that. No hidden agendas, everyone working together, brainstorming solutions, airing problems, we all know what the others are doing. Very cool. Anything I see as I go along I’ll definitely suggest. S

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