“All I want to know is where I'm going to die, so I'll never go there.”

Quote by Charlie Munger - Business partner of Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.

Technology can help nonprofits to be more efficient in their day to day operations and work. It offers them incredible opportunities to scale their impact & reach. As a non profit leader - Are you thinking of ways to improve technology adoption at your workplace? You must be busy thinking about things that you could do to encourage staff to adopt technology and all the value that its going to add to your work. We always plan for positive outcomes and a happy ending. This is the forward thinking approach that we are all used to. This way of thinking comes naturally to us.

But what if you looked at this problem differently?

If you look at the problem by inversion, you would think about all the things that would discourage technology at your work. And then build a plan to avoid these things. What would that look like? Is that a simpler solution?


Lets look at this in some depth with an example. Let's imagine that Acme Org is rolling out an online project management tool for its team. You are the CEO of Acme Org and are confident that implementing this tool is going to increase your team's productivity and team work. You start thinking of ways to encourage adoption of the project management tool.

There are two ways to go about it. The first is our natural tendency to think forward.

Forward Thinking: "100% of my team will use the tool to manage their projects in the first month."

What are the things that will encourage this kind of adoption?

  1. An easy to use tool that is intuitive and simple
  2. Tool integrates well with existing tools that are being used at the org like email, etc.
  3. Clear communication from executive office to all staff about the new tool and their support in implementing.
  4. Well planned training sessions to help staff with problems.

Now let us apply Inversion to this problem and force ourselves to thinking in an inverted way.

Inverted Thinking: "Only 5% of my team will use the tool in the first month."

What are the things that willl discourage adoption?

  1. Staff has limited understanding of project management concepts.
  2. Staff feel like they will be tracked and this leads to low motivation levels.
  3. They did not feel part of the tool selection and implementation process.
  4. Its not going to help them at all and its extra work.
  5. Team members unable to access tool due to poor internet during field visits.

As you can see - Inversion is a powerful mental model or way of thinking that forces uf to spend time thinking about the opposite of what we want. It is not enough to think about difficult problems one way. We need to think about them forwards and backwards. Inversion often forces us to uncover hidden beliefs about the problem. “Indeed,” says Munger, “many problems can't be solved forward.”

Despite our best intentions, thinking forward increases the odds that our plan will cause harm. Thinking backward by design is less likely to cause harm. Inverting the problem won't always solve it, but it will help us avoid trouble. **You can think of it as the “avoiding stupidity” filter. **

So what does inversion teach us? Spend less time trying to be brilliant and more time trying to avoid obvious stupidity. :)

Inversion is a Farnam Street Mental Model.