Go Opposite

In his New York Times best-selling book Flash Foresight, business strategist Daniel Burrus offers a roadmap for predicting the future as well as a fresh approach to tackling business challenges — based on seven principles. (See “Flash Foresight Triggers,” listed below.) We've excerpted parts of Flash Foresight to highlight one of those principles: Go opposite.

“Having spent most of my time over [more than a quarter century] looking into the visible future, here is something I’ve noticed: The more you look, the more you see. The question is, where are you looking? The key to the power of go opposite is that it puts you looking where no one else is seeing — which will give you the ability to do what no one else is doing.

Warren Buffett, the famed investor, has explained his uncanny knack for making successful investments with just 12 words: ‘Be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy.’ A beautifully simple expression of go opposite, and one that has earned him billions.”

Here is an example of go opposite, taken from another part of the book: “
In American advertising, there are millions of opportunities to promote a product, but there is only one ultimate ad slot: the Super Bowl ad. …

For years, Frito-Lay had heavily advertised its Doritos corn chips in the Super Bowl, spending millions upon millions of dollars. In preparation for the 2007 event, they decided to do the opposite. “Instead of hiring the very best pros and paying them millions,” they said, “let’s hire complete amateurs and pay them nothing!”

Sound crazy? Crazy like a fox — with flash foresight. Because of the explosion in processing power, storage, and bandwidth, the ordinary consumer now has the capacity to make a high-quality, television-ready ad on the desktop – and Frito-Lay knew it. Instead of passive ads, they went opposite, getting their target audience engaged – and by making the ad itself newsworthy, they also got valuable free media exposure.

They launched a contest called Crash the Super Bowl for consumers to create their own Doritos commercials. The public would vote on the best ad, and they would run the winner during the Super Bowl. The vote was so close that they ended up running not one but two of the consumer-created ads — and the ads were so good that they ranked fifth in a Nielsen survey of the most popular Super Bowl ads that year. One of the ads cost $200 to make.”

Flash Foresight Triggers

“So, is it really that simple? Just do the opposite of what everyone else is doing, and you’ll solve the problem nobody else is solving? Of course not. But it’s nearly that simple. Go opposite is only one flash-foresight trigger. … I’ve discovered seven such triggers.

  • Start with certainty (use hard trends to see what’s coming).
  • Anticipate (base your strategies on what you know about the future).
  • Transform (use technology- driven change to your advantage).
  • Take your biggest problem and skip it (it’s not the real problem anyway).
  • Go opposite (look where no one else is looking to see what no one else is seeing and do what no one else is doing).
  • Refine and reinvent (identify and leverage your uniqueness in new and powerful ways).
  • Direct your future (or someone else will direct it for you).

Convene Editors