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.
REVERSING ASSUMPTIONS. Suppose you want to start a new restaurant and are having difficulty coming up with ideas. To initiate ideas, try the following reversals:
1. List all your assumptions about your subject.
EXAMPLE: Some common assumptions about restaurants are:
A. Restaurants have menus, either written, verbal or implied.
B. Restaurants charge money for food.
C. Restaurants serve food.
2. Reverse each assumption. What is its opposite?
EXAMPLE: The assumptions reversed would be:
A. Restaurants have no menus of any kind.
B. Restaurants give food away for free.
C. Restaurants do not serve food of any kind.
3. Ask yourself how to accomplish each reversal. How can we start a restaurant that has no menu of any kind and still have a viable business?
A. A restaurant with no menu. IDEA: The chef informs each customer what he bought that day at the meat market, vegetable market and fish market. He asks the customer to select items that appeal to him or her and he will create a dish with those items, specifically for that customer.
B. A restaurant that gives away food. IDEA: An outdoor cafe that charges for time instead of food. Use a time stamp and charge so much for time (minutes) spent. Selected food items and beverages are free or sold at cost.
C. A restaurant that does not serve food. IDEA: Create a restaurant with a unique decor in an exotic environment and rent the location. People bring their own food and beverages (picnic baskets, etc.) and pay a service charge for the location.
4. Select one and build it into a realistic idea. In our example, we decide to work with the “restaurant with no menu” reversal. We’ll call the restaurant “The Creative Chef.” The chef will create the dish out of the selected ingredients and name the dish after the customer. Each customer will receive a computer printout of the recipe the chef named after the customer.