Did you know that monkeys peel bananas from the bottom up (well to make things even more confusing this is the other way round since bananas grow upside down)? Anyway! If you assume that monkeys are banana experts (not a bold assumption to make), how can it be that we, clever humans, have it all wrong for so many years?
This is not a joke or some kind of "I love to turn conventional wisdom upside down" trick. The reason why I am interested in the art of peeling a banana is not to add my own explanation but rather to illustrate a principle, namely that of inversion. This principle is much useful as it can spark very creative processes. It is simple and boils down to the question "what if I were doing it the other way round." Yale University Professors Ayres and Nalebuff use this principle in their book entitled Why Not? and in their eponymous website.
Why do we have ATM machines where we can get money even if we are not customers of the bank where the ATM is located while we cannot do the same when we want to deposit money in the same ATM?
Why is that telemarketers who call us on the phone to ask us questions don't use a number which would credit our bank account, thus paying us for our time that so far they consume for free.
Think of Dutch auctions: Instead of proposing higher and higher prices, the auctioneer does the reverse and the bidder who wins is the one who steps in first (as opposed to last in "traditional" auctions).
Applying this inverted way of looking at business and people is indeed a unique way of creating new ideas, new business opportunities.
When I was an investment banker, I did realize that it was easier (to a certain extent of course) to buy from my clients than to sell to them. Not that obvious when you think of that army of fellows on trading floors called salespeople. They are not called "buypeople"! Buying derivatives from my clients made it easier to sell them derivatives. This is one the reason why the business of structured finance has been so lucrative: Putting in one single financial product derivatives bought and sold made the transaction more appealing. I will always remember this sentence from the floor: We have to make the product «optically good looking»! And, optics does involve inversion indeed: which side of the lens are you looking through?
A blogger abides to the inversion principle being both at the same time his or her own publishing company and the author. Airbnb homeowners become hotel managers. Cab clients turn into Uber cab drivers. Apple recreate the stores that Amazon and Dell wanted us to leave. Even hotel chains are applying the inversion principle. In 2014 Scandic Hotels has launched its Scandic to Go concept whereby you no longer go to your hotel. Your hotel room fully equipped comes to you wherever you are (as a matter of fact the spot has to be checked and cleared by Scandic first).
Monkeys are smart. Unlike Michael Porter, they know that value is nowhere to be found in a chain where everything always flows in the same direction. It does indeed pay to invert the flow!
So, next time you eat a banana, try it the other way around. While eating it try to find a new idea that would make the monkeys proud of you !