Inversion: My Favourite Mental Model For Problem Solving

The case for why inversion should be part of your mental model toolkit

Wang Yip

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Photo by processingly on Unsplash

Last weekend, I was at the local science museum and attended one of the exhibits about brain puzzles and mazes. I watched as one person tried to figure out how to ‘solve’ the maze, walking this way and that on a giant maze outlined on the floor. I looked away for a few minutes to watch everything else going on in this exhibition hall and then I noticed that this person changed tactics. They went from trying to solve the maze by going from start to finish to solving the maze by going from the end back to the start (or possibly, going from the end to a point they had reached attempting the maze from start to finish).

This, in a nutshell, is the power of inversion.

Charlie Munger, the business partner of Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, is famous for his quote “All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.”

Inversion, as you can see, is quite simply thinking about problems in reverse. Here’s the case for why it should be part of your mental model toolkit for thinking about problems:

  • As you can see from the maze story above, starting from the beginning of the maze and trying to get to the…

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Wang Yip

Author of Essential Habits. I write about personal development, work and managing your career. Connect with me at www.wangyip.ca