Read the following essay from the top down.LOST GENERATION

Now reverse the way you read it and read it starting at the bottom and read up. Reading the words one way and then reversing the way you read the same words produces two contradictory viewpoints. Reversals break your existing patterns of thought and provoke new ones. You take things as they are and then turn them around, inside out, upside down, and back to front to see what happens.

In the illustration, Figure A shows two lines of equal length bounded by arrow-like angles. In Figure B, the arrow-like angles are reversed on one of the lines, which changes our perception and creates the illusion of the line being shorter. It’s not shorter, measure it and you will find it is still equal in length. The lines haven’t changed, your perception of them has.

4 lines.illus.1

In figure A the angles at the end of the lines seem to open up a potentially limited space. Reversing the angle seems to close off and limit the area, which changes your perception of the length of the lines.

A simple reversal of angles dramatically changes what we see in the illustration. The same perceptual changes occur when we reverse our conventional thinking patterns about problems and situations. When Henry Ford went into the automobile business, the conventional thinking was that you had to “bring people to the work.” He reversed this to “bring the work to the people” and accomplished this by inventing the assembly line. When Al Sloan became CEO of General Motors, the common assumption was that people had to pay for a car before they drove it. He reversed this to you can drive the car before you pay for it and, to accomplish this, he pioneered the idea of installment buying.

Years back, chemists had great difficulty putting a pleasant-tasting coating on aspirin tablets. Dipping tablets led to uneven and lumpy coats. They were stumped until they reversed their thinking. Instead of looking for ways to put something “on” the aspirin, they looked for ways to take something “off” the aspirin. This reversal led to one of the newer techniques for coating pills. The pills are immersed in a liquid which is passed onto a spinning disk. The centrifugal force on the fluid and the pills causes the two to separate, leaving a nice, even coating around the pill.

Mathematician-philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once astounded his colleagues by demonstrating that in mathematical argument, every alternative leads to its opposite. You can provoke new ideas by considering the opposite of any subject or action. When bioengineers were looking for ways to improve the tomato, they identified the gene in tomatoes that ripens tomatoes. They thought that if the gene hastens ripening  maybe they could use the gene to slow down the process by reversing it. They copied the gene, put it in backwards and now the gene slows down ripening, making vine ripened tomatoes possible in winter.

Peter Juroszek at the University of Bonn in Germany discovered the opposite of daylight farming and initiated nighttime farming. He found that strips of land ploughed at night grow five times fewer weeds. Wheat fields in particular grow so few weeds when night farming that pesticides are unnecessary. The seeds of most weeds need light for germination to begin, whereas the seeds of most crops can grow in complete darkness.

Reversal is the strategy used to develop Pringles potato chips. Potato chips were packaged dry in bags with a lot of air to prevent breakage. What would happen if you packaged chips while they were wet? This inspired them to think of raking leaves in the fall. Shoving dry leaves into bags is difficult; but when the leaves are wet they are soft and formable. A wet leaf conforms to the shape of its neighbor with little air between them. This was the analogy that inspired the idea. By wetting and forming dried potato flour, the packaging problem was solved and Pringles got its start.


Any particular thought will arouse the notion of its opposite by simply by reversing it. Then try to work the reversal into a practical, profitable idea. A publisher mused about the impact cutting down trees has on the environment and the future of the planet. A tree is cut down and the wood is made into paper which the publisher uses to print and sell books. He thought a tree becomes a book. He reversed this thought to “A book becomes a tree.”

IDEA: The project the publisher decided to pursue is to create storybooks that can be planted, and will grow back into trees. Hand stitched copies of children’s storybooks are made from recycled acid-free paper and biodegradable inks and the cover is embedded with native tree seeds.

The books are aimed at children aged 6-12 who, after reading, can plant the book and watch and nurture the tree as it grows. Each copy comes with planting instructions. The child is also urged to form a relationship with the tree by giving it a name. The publisher is also planning to have the book displayed in bookshops, where it can be seen visibly germinating.

In this case, the impossibility of growing books as plants revealed the interesting thought of planting books as seeds for trees. Imagine the joy of children as they realize the ecological importance of contributing to the welfare of the planet by planting a book after they have finished reading it and watch it become a tree. They will nurture the tree and watch it grow over the years of their childhood.


Reversal is one of the many creative-thinking techniques creative geniuses, throughout history, used that enabled them to change their perspective to look at the same thing as everybody else and see something different.






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