Our world has changed immensely in the last few weeks but amid the upheaval and distress, there are reasons to believe we can emerge from the crisis with some human qualities enhanced, writes Matthew Syed.
A few years ago, Michael Michalko, a former US army officer, came up with a fascinating idea to sharpen creativity. He called it “assumption reversal”. You take the core notions in any context, subject, discipline and then, well, turn them on their head.
So, suppose you are thinking of starting a restaurant (obviously not possible right now!). The first assumption might be: “restaurants have menus”. The reversal would be: “restaurants have no menus”. This provokes the idea of a chef informing each customer what he bought that day at market, allowing them to select a customised dish. The point is not that this will turn out to be a workable scheme, but that by disrupting conventional thought patterns, it might lead to new associations and ideas.
Or, to take a different example, suppose you are considering a new taxi company. The first assumption might be: “taxi companies own cars”. The reversal would be: “taxi companies own no cars”. Twenty years ago, that might have sounded crazy. Today, the largest taxi company that has ever existed doesn’t own cars: Uber. Now we are living through a disruption (you might even call it a reversal) of unprecedented scale.