World’s Most Interesting Reversals (2) – Thinkibility Boost

As a follow-up of an earlier post about Reversals, we present here some more examples. A Reversal reverses the usual sequence or direction of doing something. For instance: Normally a product is delivered after the customer places the order. A Reversal could be that the customer places the order after the product is delivered. What ideas may come out of this turn? Also this time, some examples we derived from This Explains Everything, a 150 of the most surprising stories and brilliant theories of the way our minds, societies and universe work.


 A good and fast way to crank out some new ideas is to reverse them.

Reversals are also known as Assumptions Reversals. It is a powerful thinking strategy that could lead to some interesting ideas and new concepts because they provoke the conventional way of thinking and challenges generally accepted wisdom. Out of an excessive interest, we have collected some most stunning examples.

  • In many conversations, it is conveniently assumed that a company, the government or another institution is one and the same actor, and it’s actions are interpreted as that from a real human who behaves rationally. That is to say, the actor examines a set of goals, evaluates them according to their utility, then picks the one that has the highest “payoff.” 

A Reversal could be that behaviour of organisations could be interpreted as a result of negotiating processes between parts of an organization (“Governmental Politics“) or as standardized and automatic outcomes of Organizational Procedures and/or routines.

  • negotiation
  • 8 hours workday
  • time managementGTD
  • Bruno Latour
  • Normally, companies pay for advertisements directed on broadly defined target groups in advance and regardless of weather they are read or not.

GoogleAds has this reversed. A company pays only for an advertisement if it is actually read by a prospective client. Many new business models are based on Reversals. One such a Reversal is that the receiver of the product/service doesn’t pay for it, but that it is paid for by a third party.

  • Many people believe that higher education of the population, science and availability of medical services are responsible for lower infant mortality and longer life.

It is not. Safe drinking water and sewage treatment plants have been instrumental in improving health.

  • Heliocentrism – the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun at the centre of the Solar System- is the Reversal of the Geocentrism -a description of the cosmos where Earth is at the orbital centre of all celestial bodies.
  • Before 1982, conventional thinking was that no bacterium can live in the human stomach, as the stomach produced extensive amounts of acid of a strength similar to the acid found in a car battery.

Marshall and Warren rewrote the textbooks with reference to what causes gastritis and gastric ulcers: a bacterium with an affinity for acidic environments: the Helicobacter pylori. In hindsight, it is amazing that already in 1875 it is hypothesized that ulcers are caused by bacteria. The timeline of the discovery illustrates how much effort it takes to become mainstream knowledge,

A Reversal is that cities are the primary drivers of economic development, as Jane Jacobs has put forward,

  • In psychoanalysis conflicts between conscious and unconscious can materialize in the form of mental or emotional disturbances, for example, neurosis, neurotic traits, anxiety, depression etc. Solving repressed conflicts by talking and freely associating would lead to reduced symptoms of emotional disturbance.

However, Aaron Beck reversed this approach by hypothesizing that different disorders were associated with different types of distorted thinking. By helping patients identify and evaluate these thoughts, patients were able to think more realistically, which led them to feel better emotionally and behave more functionally. This Reversal initiated Cognitive Behavioral Therapies. He began helping patients identify and evaluate these thoughts and found that by doing so, patients were able to think more realistically, which led them to feel better emotionally and behave more functionally.

  • Ha-Joon Chang suggests in 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism twenty-three Reversals of theories and empirical facts that are accepted by most professionals that cloud our financial institutions like “there is no such thing as a free market”, “we do not live in a post-industrial age”, “Africa is not destined for underdevelopment”, “despite the fall of communism, we are still living in planned economies” and “More education in itself is not going to make a country richer“.


The future is often a reverse of the assumptions of the present.

11 Replies to “World’s Most Interesting Reversals (2) – Thinkibility Boost”

  1. Success leads to happiness OR happiness leads to success.

    We believe we should work hard in order to be happy, but could we be thinking about things backwards? In this fast-moving and very funny talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that, actually, happiness inspires us to be more productive.

  2. From their data, Darwin mined a number of influential conclusions. Emotions, he suggested, were facilitated by the act of expressing them. We don’t cry because we are upset, rather the act of crying informs us that we are upset. In our neuroscientific age, when we’re apt to regard a small firing in the brain as the first stage of all human processes, the proposal may seem bizarre, but it is not quite abandoned – a Japanese study from 2007 drizzled its subjects with artificial tears and found, as Darwin would have expected, that many experienced feelings of sadness

    From: The Luxury of Tears

  3. “I often say that we are conscious in spite of our brain, not because of it,” said Alexander. “It really has to do with the fact that consciousness is fundamental.” He continued, “Consciousness is not something you can get behind. You can’t see it as a derivative from the matter of the brain.” (This notion is captured in the title of the article, “What If Consciousness Comes First?”)

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