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Don’t Just Do Something Different; Do the Opposite!

Innovation means doing something different and what could be more different than the exact opposite? If your current plans and policies are not working then try doing the opposite.

Linus Torvalds
The policy of all major software companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and IBM, was to protect their intellectual property. Only a handful of loyal employees were allowed access to the full source code of major software programs and steps were taken to ensure that the valuable programming secrets never left the company’s site. Linus Torvalds, a Finnish programmer, decided to do the opposite. He created an operating system, Linux, so that anybody could view and amend the source code. This meant that anybody could effectively own and change the software. It was difficult if not impossible to control but that did not worry him because it also unleashed a wave of free creativity and innovation. He created the open source movement by doing the opposite of all the big players.

The movie, The Artist, won the best picture award at the 2012 Oscars. The director had deliberately opposed conventional movie-making by filming The Artist in black and white and without dialogue.

Jean-Claude Killy was a French downhill skier who wanted to win gold in the Winter Olympics. But he could not do it using the conventional methods so he did the opposite. Everyone was coached to keep their skis together and their weight forward going downhill. He created a new style called avalement which involved keeping the skis apart and sitting back on the skis. He won three gold medals at the 1968 Olympics.

When Anita Roddick founded the Body Shop retail chain she did the opposite of her major rivals. They all presented their perfumes and shampoos in expensive bottles and plush packaging. She used cheap plastic bottles and simple packaging to stress that the contents were what mattered – and they were pure and simple.

We are all plagued by emails from scam artists who tell us we have won the lottery or can help them move millions out of some obscure bank account. The conventional advice is to ignore these emails. But what if we did the opposite? What if we all responded by asking for more details. The scammers, who send out millions of emails, would be overwhelmed and unable to cope.

Look at your current policies and strategies. What would happen if you did the exact opposite?

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