ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

How to Discover Opportunity in Negativity

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2017

Negativity.  It’s everywhere.

It seems no one can do anything right.  Whether in politics, business or design critiquing, the default reaction seems to be one of negativity.

In some ways people can be excused.  From an evolutionary perspective, seeing the negatives gives an advantage in fight or flight situations.

Reaction 1: That tiger’s going to eat us – RUUUN!!!! (NEGATIVE)

Reaction 2: That tiger is licking its lips no doubt because it had a giant meal and now she’s just resting.  We can walk right by her. (POSITIVE)

The negative clearly has the advantage.

But, we’re not in Fight or Flight most of the time

Modern society has eliminated most acute threats to our existences. But that doesn’t stop us from seeing the negative. The problem is that when everyone is seeing negatives, the positives escape notice.  In fact, when the crowd is seeing negatives, we have a greater tendency to reinforce the negatives present and even find new ones.  Misery not only loves company, it creates it!!

Be a contrarian!

While recently reading “The Art of Contrary Thinking” (by Humphrey B. Neill) i was struck by the following:

“Bring up almost any question – on domestic or foreign affairs – and you will hear voices at once chime in that “it won’t work,” “It can’t be done,” and so on….(Instead,)…If we start asking “what’s right?”about this or that question, we shall find  we are actually changing our whole method of thinking.”***

Changing how we think is not easy to do, but it is fruitful and it can be done.

Example 1: Of mice and men…

in 1979, there was a mouse driven graphical user interface in use at Xerox.  It wasn’t commercialized.  It was clunky, had three buttons, and was hardly ready for prime time.  Steve Jobs saw it, and most importantly, saw the good in it.  He saw past the clunky three button tethered box.  The rest, as they say, is  (Apple) history.

Example 2: All they’re doing is playing games!!

That’s a typical refrain of people when they see young people playing video games and even recording and sharing them on YouTube.  Yet, E-Sports are not just a fringe phenomenon.  They are a multi-multi -million dollar ‘sport’that involve millions of people worldwide (Gaming almost had 100 billion in revenues in 2016!!) .

You can mock it.  You can call it a fad.

Do that and one thing will be guaranteed:

You’ll miss out.

So Design for the good!

Before you can do that, you need to first see the good. You need to not agree with crowds.who will be pointing out the zillion things wrong.  You need to have enough character and confidence to look deep, see the good, and stand by the good in a product, service,  technology or cultural phenomenon.

Ask yourself: What’s good about ……?

Build upon that good thing! Use it as a spring board.  Innovate around it!

Opportunities will present themselves where others just see… well actually, they won’t see anything.  They’ll be complaining about this or that.

You, as a contrary thinker, will be making better products, and making the world a better place!

 

*** – This book was written in the 1950’s and he was bemoaning the negativity pervasive in discourse!!!

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2 Responses to “How to Discover Opportunity in Negativity”

  1. We work a lot with innovators and a couple of years ago began to use a technique borrowed from the IT industry – or more specifically web design companies – which revolves around something known as ‘smoke testing’. I’ll admit to an interest here – we’re also in the innovation and invention world.
    What we often do nowadays is build out what’s often referred to as a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ – basically the simplest version of a new design we can make, featuring only the core idea or function behind the idea.

    That allows us to validate how people react to the idea before we plough in tens, or sometimes hundreds, of thousands of $$$ into a new project. Of course, having our own manufacturing team helps this approach no end, but it’s a strategy that can be very useful in determining whether or not it’s worth moving forward into full development. In effect it allows us to fail often and fail small, not always turning negatives into positives but certainly making failure an important part of the development process.

  2. Plish said

    Hi Henry! Thanks for your input. Love the idea of ‘smoke testing’ . I often do this in the lab: making what you’re calling a Minimum Viable Product, before getting too many layers of management involved, as it helps people get excited about the potential idea without, as you say, investing too much time, energy or money.

    Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your insights! You are always welcome!

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