I came across this article, and though it was a perfect example of what I’m talking about when I say I want to spread “tools” for thinking like a Fox. I shudder to think what would happen to bureaucrats and drones everywhere if CEOs, politicians and Flag Officers starting using this tactic with their staffs.
The general idea is that by “flipping” a question or situation, you can substantially change your odds of getting the information or result you need. In the first example from that article, author Ian Ayres says:
You’ve just finished dinner at a nice restaurant and you order a decaf coffee instead of regular so that you won’t have trouble falling asleep. A few minutes later, your server brings you a steaming cup of Joe. You want to drink it, but you’re worried it might have caffeine. At this point, I normally ask something like “Are you sure this is decaffeinated?”
But my friend (and newly tenured colleague) Yair Listokin tells me that Oprah suggests that we ask instead: “Is this regular coffee?” Or, “Are you sure this is regular coffee?”
It’s not fool proof, but asking “is it regular” will let you know whether the waiter is willing to say “yes” to any question.
By flipping the question, we reduce the possibility that we will just get the answer we want to hear. Imagine if JFK had asked his advisors “So tell me again why you’re against this Bay of Pigs invasion?”
The downside, of course, is that the person you’re asking the flipped question to might think you are insane, but that’s probably something I can live with.