Mental Models — Inversion of a Problem

Sachin Sharma
2 min readFeb 24, 2020

This is an interesting mental model that I came across while reading Charlie Munger. It is simple but beautiful!

Let us start with an example.

“You want to make your team highly productive, how will you go about it?”

This looks like a difficult problem to solve. So much so that it is tempting to reach out to some Project management guru :-)

But let us try to invert it. How about this —

“How about the list of things that can make your team highly unproductive?”

Well, this looks easier at first look. Some thoughts that first come to my mind

  1. Not having clear goals
  2. Not having deadlines
  3. Not having an environment that is conducive for quiet work
  4. Too many meetings
  5. Bad manager
  6. Rapidly changing requirements
  7. Poor planning effort
  8. Delays due to dependence on other teams
  9. Not enough power/understanding to make quick decisions

Now, this is fascinating. When faced with a question on making teams productive, the problem appeared a bit abstract and open-ended. But looking at the inverted problem, my mind worked with much more clarity and speed.

Do you also feel the same?

Further reading
Inversion and The Power of Avoiding Stupidity — Fanam Street
Inversion: The Crucial Thinking Skill Nobody Ever Taught You — James Clear, Atomic Habits

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Sachin Sharma

Founder @townscript. Passionate about building Products. Books when not working. Writes at — https://www.sachinsharma.in