Become a leader


Reverse assumptions

Group size: from 10 to 30 participants. The game is partly played in small groups of 2-5 persons. The total number of participants should at least allow the constitution of five small groups.
Time: 30 minutes including preparation, implementation, and debriefing.
Materials required: the materials needed are post-its, A4 papers, a paperboard, and pens.

OBJECTIVES: the objective of this game is to provoke new ideas by considering the opposite of given assumptions. To turn a problem on its head is a surprisingly technique to question assumptions we take for true and to develop our creative thinking.

  • To learn how to challenge assumptions
  • To generate new ideas
  • To develop creative thinking

This group activity should take place within UNIT 3/Sub-UNIT 1: “How to develop ideas for possible solutions?” This Sub-UNIT gives an overview of divergent/creative thinking techniques, including Brainstorming, Mind-maps, and Question assumptions/What-iffing. The group activity can be used as a practical example for all these techniques, but mainly for the Question assumptions technique.

Step 1: The trainer is handing out a little number of post-it to each participant asking them to write individually assumptions about “How to run a business”, one assumption per post-it. The assumptions should start with “A business needs to….” Or “To run a business you should….”. (Example: “A business needs to be competitive”). When each participant has written one or more assumptions, the trainer collects the post-it.

Step 2: The trainer arranges them on the paperboard according the subjects and chooses some of the assumptions, at least 5. The whole group is asked to reverse each of the chosen assumptions into their opposite (Example: “A business does not need to be competitive”) and to form a challenge question upon this reversed assumption (Example: “How can a business develop without being competitive?”). During this step, the trainer is in interaction with the whole group, facilitating the reversal of assumptions and the formulation of interesting challenge questions.

Step 3: The group is now split into at least five small groups of 2 to 5 persons, each group receives one of the challenge questions writing it on the top of a paper. They now brainstorm for 15 minutes to generate ideas to the challenge question by taking the reversed assumption for a possible reality.

Step 4: Every group presents the generated ideas to the whole group.

After the presentation of the generated ideas, the activity ends with a group discussion about the brainstorming activity with reversed assumptions.

The trainer asks the participants to express themselves about the following questions:

  • How easy or difficult was it to find ideas for the challenge question?
  • Why is the questioning of assumptions important?
  • Did the activity broaden your perspective of the topic?
  • Do you think of other topics reversal thinking could create new inputs?

A variation of the game can be to start with a mind-map in small groups of 2 to 5 persons with the central question “How runs a business?” in order to facilitate the Step 1, the individual formulation of assumptions. In this case the duration of the game is about 10 minutes longer.