Finding the positive in fresh ideas: going against human nature

I’ve been thinking about Charles Babbage’s quote quite a bit lately and I think that it still rings true today.

“Propose to an Englishman any principle, or any instrument, however admirable, and you will observe that the whole effort of the English mind is directed to find a difficulty, a defect, or an impossibility in it. If you speak to him of a machine for peeling a potato, he will pronounce it impossible; if you peel a potato with it before his eyes, he will declare it useless, because it will not slice a pineapple.”

Think back to times when someone came up with an innovative and new idea and how others responded. Our first reaction is to think of reasons why it won’t work. We’re all probably guilty of it. Of course, some more than others. It happens all the time. Instead of coming up with positive ideas on how it can improve things, we focus on the negative.

Fredrik Haren in The Idea Book suggests that the first thing a group should do is to listen to 50 ideas without saying anything negative about them. I’d love to try this with a group when a new idea is presented. Ask the group to only think of positive implications of the new idea or innovation.

Think about how it will change the tone of the discussion. Some interesting ideas may even have a chance.

Photo by Chellabear

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2 comments

  1. Hi Joyce, I thought of your comment the other day when someone brought an idea to me and I was ready to find the negatives with it. I realized that by doing that I’m sending them the wrong message. I want people to come up with a “kazillion” ideas. Thanks for the comment.

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