My Daily Thoughts


Opposite Thinking

Even research communities of highly intelligent and well-meaning individuals can fall prey to confirmation bias, as IQ is positively correlated with the number of reasons people find to support their own side in an argument.
Annie Duke

A key thinking style for business analysts is what I call opposite thinking.

It’s is also called being a Devil’s advocate, but sometimes that role takes on a “bad guy” approach and doesn’t look at all aspects of a situation.  In politics I see the opposition playing the Devil’s advocate role.  They are trying to tear down the other side rather than trying to get a better overall view of an issue.

How do you apply opposite thinking?

Once you have created a business process, product, or service you want to evaluate it from the opposite perspective from hwo it was created.

You can ask questions such as:

  • How can someone take advantage of this?
  • What could go wrong?
  • Why is this a bad idea?
  • What are all the risks associated with this idea?
  • How can someone game the system with this idea?
  • How would different stakeholders view this idea?
  • If I am a certain type of stakeholder is there an inherent unfairness in the system?
  • Are there feedback loops in place to keep the negative consequences in check?

For a SAS (Software as a service) you can ask questions such as:

  • What if only 1 person bought it?
  • What if a million people bought?
  • What is the return on investment?
  • What assumptions are being made about the value being delivered? About potential clients? How are the assumptions being measured and tracked?
  • What are the customer’s economies of scale?  A 1% increase for a business that makes a million a year is only $10,000.  A 1% increase for a business that makes 100 million is 1 million!
  • What are the alternatives to this service?
  • What is the client’s ROI of the alternatives?

To be able to use opposite thinking effectively you need to cultivate the mindset of every idea has a chance of being the best idea.

A great book for this type of thinking is Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke

If you don’t believe the opposite perspective has any merit, then your questioning will be biased.  You need to cultivate the belief that there might be some nugget of information in exploring the opposite side.  Keep an open mind, put yourself in different people’s shoes, be curious, and explore the options to see what can be discovered.

Live the Adventure


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