Loving the Idea of a Creative Idea, but. . .

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Everyone loves the idea with a creative idea. But, there is a big but, this is not the same as embracing an idea. Or testing the idea, or even considering the interesting and positive aspects with the idea. Probably the biggest obstacle to innovative initiatives is a negative response. Or lack of response. The dreaded endless silence after you have put forward a suggestion.

Many ideas are easy to test such as the idea about walking meetings from Funny or Die. A creative idea is put forward in the video – walking meetings. Too much sitting is bad for us and walking meetings is good not only for health purposes, but to get out of the office and to keep meetings short.

Take a moment to reflect on this idea. What is your response?

This idea costs in principle nothing to try out and it is easy to test. Yet many people simple reject the idea. Critical and negative comments may be put forward. But even if some ideas are easy to test, the problem is more of lack of ways of thinking related to new ideas. Every new idea should be explored by using a simple and quick tool called PMI – plus, minus and interesting. A quick exploration where you focus on three different aspects with an idea. This quick way prevents us from making quick judgments. And it saves us even from test stupid ideas like walking meetings. . . because it is silly. . . or maybe not. . . well, at least this is interesting about the idea. . .

And you can read more about ways to overcome negative attitudes to new ideas in our eBook.

Photo “Idea On Monitors Showing Variety Of Thoughts” by Stuart Miles

Negative Thinking and Negative Attitude

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Negative thinking is often confused with a negative attitude to ideas and solutions. A search for negative aspects is NOT the same as a negative approach. Looking for risks and dangers can save your life and ensure that your project or idea is save to carry out.

Edward de Bono’s approach to thinking encourages habits that are used to explore ideas. This is a positive approach even though you may be searching for ideas to reject an idea. Using a thinking framework, such as the Six Hats, may help you to control negative thinking and instead engage in a positive exploration for risks, negative points, or negative values.

Below is an xcerpt from our eBook Thinkibility – Positive & Negative.

Bias by Optimism

Unrealistic optimism is a pervasive human trait that influences domains ranging from personal relationships to politics and finance. How people maintain unrealistic optimism, despite frequently encountering information that challenges those biased beliefs, is unknown. A possible explanation is that we are selective in the type of information that we update. Optimism bias could be described as selective update of beliefs that are positive and better than expected. Thus, we may be reluctant to update information that is worse than we expected. Excessive optimism can result in cost overruns, benefit shortfalls, or delays when plans are implemented. More generally, optimism biases are related to the initiation of military conflicts and the creation of economic bubbles. Megaprojects, like those in infrastructure, are well known for their optimism biases that lead to budget overruns and technological failures.

Avoid Negativity

The search for risks should not be monopolized by negative thoughts, and the assessment should be carried out in a positive and constructive manner where the aim is to explore risks and the potential harmful effects with an idea. Under the Black Hat the dangers and risks are assessed but the metaphorical Hat is also used to make a final assessment of an idea or proposal. The request to use the Black Hat thinking is in itself more neutral than to ask for a careful exploration. However, the colour black is sometimes associated with dark thoughts and negativity. Occasionally, the Black Hat is renamed and referred to as the Purple Hat: this approach is often used with younger children.

It is important to be aware of the distinction between actively seeking for potential dangers and having a negative attitude to new ideas and solutions. The request to use Black Hat thinking can lead to an exaggeration because it is explicitly assumed that since we are metaphorically wearing the Black Hat, we must make an effort to come up with negative points and bad aspects.

Black Hat thinking is an attempt to explore negative points as objectively as possible – a kind of role-playing. In contrast, negativity is often described as character trait – a tendency of being unconstructively critical.  Sometimes a person is described as having a negativistic personality. The good news is that negativity is a way of thinking that can be changed and turned into an exploration of risks and dangers. Negativity bias is a situation when a person pays more attention to negative rather than positive experiences. If someone gives us positive and negative information about a stranger, it is easy to make a negative judgement of the stranger. If the information is more or less of equal weight, we should have a neutral picture of the stranger.

Interestingly, negative information in the form of negation attracts more attention than when expressed in a positive affirmative way. When we describe someone’s behaviour in an affirmative way, it receives less attention than when we describe the same behaviour by using a negation. Consumers often give more attention to a product that has received a little negative publicity – the negative publicity seems to raise our curiosity about the product.

However, many of us think in the same way every day, and it is nearly impossible for many of us to make it through the day without negative thoughts. It can be everyday things such as the way the traffic does not flow because of too many cars, or as complicated as the daily running of a household.  This attitude, this way of engaging with the world, is often encouraged. Finding faults and negative consequences with a suggestion or hypothesis is appreciated and this kind of thinking is linked to the critical thinking framework, which in itself is a valuable way of approaching problems.  Yet a critical approach is not the same thing as a negative approach to thinking.

Negative thinking or rather a negative approach to ideas and suggestions, is not a fruitful way of exploring a subject. In contrast, if we are metaphorically wearing the Black Hat, we check a statement or idea to see if it fits the facts.  An idea may appear to solve the entire problem but there can be a dangerous side to the idea. The Black Hat thinking asks for a careful approach and an examination of potential risks.

Awareness of the Team’s Strengths

A sport coach must be aware of the team’s weaknesses and strengths. The coach uses this knowledge to analyse how different factors affect the play. This awareness helps the coach to achieve the team’s goals. To complicate things, the team’s positive and negative aspects depend upon the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. The aim is to consider positive factors, while maintaining or eliminating the negative ones.

A sport coach cannot adopt a negative approach to thinking when he or she is exploring tactics and choosing the team. The identification of negative factors that need to be eliminated should be carried out in a way that explores the possibility of their removal or reduction of their impact.

Challenging Negativity                                                                                                                                            

We are thinking negatively when we fear the future, or expect failures. Negative thinking damages confidence, and harms performance. Challenging our own as well as an organisation’s negative thinking is important. The more we fire neurons in a certain way, the stronger the paths become, and as a result it gets more and more difficult to change the negative thinking pattern. It is easy to be trapped in pessimistic thoughts and mental loops that tell us that there are no other possibilities.

Awareness that alternatives may exist make us more aware of the depths of the possibilities. We can be stuck by negative thoughts or mesmerised by the number of alternatives and directions that we can take. The idea to replace negative thoughts with new ways makes logical sense but it is not easy. The aim is to move forward in the thinking rather than explore the world in a negative manner. Finding faults should be done with the explicit goal to find new possibilities. Different tools and methods need to be used to break negative thinking. We will discuss some methods in the following sections.

Throughout our lives, we often try to explain and endure stress and anxiety by viewing our existence with a “dualistic mind.” We create a world of private duality, a world that is limited and fixed – to what in daily conversation is called black and white thinking. This expression refers to thinking of either/or character. For example, the solution is good or bad, strong or weak, and smart or stupid. This way of thinking gives us a false sense of security and control over life’s uncertainties. Dualistic thinking makes us feel in control and it is easy to think that we do not have to search actively for other ways to describe the risks and concerns regarding a solution. This one-sided and inflexible thinking makes us ignore subtle degrees and variances.

Photo: “Cheerful Silhouette Boy” by arztsamui

Before you say Yes or No

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We are used to relying on our vision but according to IBM in the future the focus will be on broadening the perspective  developing capacities to mimic the ability to  smell, touch, taste and hear. Tiny sensors in the computer may detect if you are coming down with a cold by analysing your breath.

Many new ideas and suggestions are immediately rejected. Yet exploring new ideas and inventions is a great way to give your “creative muscles a workout”.  Imagine what it would feel like, smell like or sound like while you explore some of the ideas in the videos below. For tips about how to actively search for positive and negative aspects, look at our eBook.  Go here .



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Go here to read about the Tableware by Jinhyon Jeon.

How to Deal with Positive and Negative Aspects

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A new way to walk through a forest. Or a silly idea? Often ideas are judged quickly – too quickly in some cases.

A trampoline walkway through a Russian forest!  What are the positive aspects of Salto Architects trampoline walkway, Fast Track?

Salto, which is based in Tallinn, installed an anchorage system to hold the long rubber mat. The installation is made by cutting out a trough of land and it is not much different from a trampoline that you have in your backyard.

This road or installation challenges our perceptions.

  • A poetic way of bouncing through a forest.
  • Excellent  exercise.
  • A great way to see a birds nest high up in a treetop.

Can you think of any other positive aspects? Use the pictures for inspiration. Close your  eyes and imagine that you are bouncing through your local park.

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Of course, it may take a long time to bounce through a forest.

  • Difficult to walk your dog.
  • You might get dizzy.
  • Slippery when it is raining.

Can you think of any other negative aspects.

Ways of dealing with these types of question will be explored in our coming eBook. Thinkibility – Positive & Negative.

A First-Rate Madness – Book reveiw

How can we use knowledge and understanding about depression to enhance our thinking skills?

Depression is linked to negative views of yourself and the world. Sadness is a normal reaction to life’s struggles and disappointments. But depression is much more than just sadness; some people describe depression as “living in a black hole”. Yet psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi believes that people suffering from depression may be good candidates for certain positions. He suggests that people suffering from depression often have a realistic view about their place in the world – making them a suitable candidate to lead in a crisis.

Mildly depressed people tend to see the world more clearly – more as it is. In a classic study, people pressed a button and observed whether it turned on a green light. The light was controlled by the researcher. People suffering from mild depressive symptoms realised that they had little control over the light. Non-depressed people believed that they could control the light – a slightly inflated sense of how much control it is possible to have over the world.

In the book, “A First Rate Madness” several case studies are discussed that examine respected political figures who lived with depression and/or mania. Nassir Ghaemi argues that the fact that the leaders suffered from a mental health condition actually enhanced their leadership skills. During times of peace, a leader that is regarded as mentally healthy may do well but they may experience problems during crises. Classifying mental problems is difficult and using historical figures to prove an idea is even more difficult. Yet Nassir Ghaemi’s ideas are interesting when we are discussing thinking related to an active search for risks and dangers with an idea or suggestion.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted”, but maybe it is possible to use the understanding of the “creatively maladjusted” to improve our thinking skills. Exploring risks and dangers is an attempt to examine negative points as objectively as possible – a kind of role-playing. A “good” thinker is not characterised by superior cognitive abilities or skills. We can set ourselves apart by our tendencies to explore and enquire. We can develop curiosity and be prepared to plunge ourselves into intellectual risks and challenges. We can learn to think critically and logically. Challenge ourselves to think laterally and imaginatively.

The habit of changing the thinking and adapt it to the situation is vital and knowledge and understanding of when to use a thinking framework or technique is vital. So is the habit of constantly reflecting and monitoring the thinking. Are we overly optimistic because there are reports of an economic down turn? This awareness may help us to improve upon risky ideas and solutions. Rather than a quick rejection of ideas, it is more fruitful to explore ways to improve the weak points. Strategies can also be used such as choosing more risky options every Tuesday or every fifth time. Instead of rejecting leads for new business opportunities a higher risk project could be check out but not every time. A flexible approach mixed with awareness of how we tend to think and act in a crisis may help us select the best option and idea.

Black-and-White Background

How does black-and-white background influence our thinking?

Thinking is never neutral. Focusing our attention on different aspect is often more difficult than we imagine. Many “little” things can affect our thinking. A recent study suggests that if we see something on a black-white background it is harder for us to consider grey areas when we are solving moral dilemmas. It appears that our judgement becomes more black-and-white.

Simone Schnall and her colleagues found that when people rated a fictional  moral story their ratings were influenced by the colour of the border. The participants saw the tale next to a black-and-white checkerboard, grey, or yellow-and-blue checkerboard. There was no difference between the grey and coloured checkerboards. Stronger judgement against the man’s behaviour was made when they saw the black-and-white checkerboard.  They same pattern appeared when the participants were asked questions about moral and immoral behaviours or asked to make judgements about fairness. This research, which has not yet undergone peer-review, adds to other interesting finding such as the way holding a hot cup of tea or coffee in one hands influences our perception of a situation,

All this is fascinating; yet the interesting question is how to prevent us from letting the environment influence our thinking. A first step is to develop an awareness of how various aspects in our surroundings may influence later thinking. It is also vital to explore different techniques to help us stay focused on the task. We can take breaks to help us clear our minds when we switch our perception and direct our thinking to other aspects.

Would the result in the study change if the participants had been allowed small breaks between reading the story and answering the questions?. Or is it possible to change the result by informing them that the background may influence their thinking. While we are waiting for new results, we can always test some ideas ourselves. How much can we influence out thinking by thinking about possible factors that may have influenced our thinking. Is it easier to look for risks and dangers when we are looking out of the window and the rain is pouring down?  

Under the Six Hats Thinking framework as designed by Edward de Bono we select a metaphorical thinking Hat as a way of directing the attention to a certain aspect. Switching from wearing one metaphorical hat to another is difficult. Awareness and tricks need to be used to ensure that our thinking under the Blue Hat is not too optimistic if we previously used the Yellow Hat. It is deceptively easy to believe that Blue Hat thinking is neutral. Moreover, it is easy to believe that we are in fact making a “neutral” evaluation of the thinking. However, our thinking is influenced by previous thinking and our feelings. A possible method that can be used is to take a small break when switching from one metaphorical thinking Hat to the next. We can listen to some music, walk around in the room, or mediate for a couple of minutes.

Photo: “Pixel Point” by Salvatore Vuono