Assumption reversal
Big Business
Assumption reversal
Assumption reversal
Sole Trader

Assumption reversal
An approach to turning your problems on their head

The big idea

Assumption reversal was developed by Stephen Grossman, a creativity consultant who wanted to find a way to overcome the paradoxes that are often inherent in many problems. So, for example, as many cultural organisations are experiencing at the moment, you may be required to cut budgets at the same time as delivering more programming. The apparent contradiction of delivering more with less can serve as a significant block to problem solving and decision making.

The reversal technique encourages you to alter an aspect of the problem or your assumptions about it. By turning your assumptions on their head and creating a mirror image view, you can generate new ways of approaching problems and issues. Your original assumptions are not necessarily wrong but in reversing them you can generate new approaches. There is also the possibility that you may be harbouring false assumptions. If so, this technique will also help you to discover that this is the case and avoid the limitations that this can cause.


The purpose of this technique is to deliberately question your underlying assumptions about a problem to help spark new ideas for addressing it. The assumption reversal approach helps you escape from your usual ways of addressing issues. The technique is most commonly used for problem solving and decision making, overcoming obstacles or barriers and dealing with general problems. Grossman uses the example of the problem of improving restaurants.

Basic assumptions: restaurants serve food, are located outside the home, people pay for the food and the food is prepared by the restaurant

Reversals: restaurants give food away, they don’t serve people and they don’t prepare food

Possible solutions: people cook their own food, serving pets and not people, restaurant is run by a local co-operative etc

The Tool

This can be a fun technique that encourages you to take some extreme perspectives by looking at opposites. It can be done on your own or with a group. The tool can be very quick to use depending on the problem you are looking at.