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Negative Selection


Creative tools > Negative Selection

When to use it | How to use it | Example | How it works | See also


When to use it

Use it when you need to select an idea from a large list.

Use it as a first stage to create a short-list of ideas to consider more carefully.



  X        Long



    X      Psychological



  X        Group


How to use it

Many selection methods assume a relatively small number of choices from which to select. For example, if you have a hundred ideas, a voting session can lead to lots of items with one vote. Think about when you last looked for a house or car. You probably went around all of the agents and came home with a huge pile of literature. In order to thin down the pile of paper, you then probably did a quick sort to weed out the many no-hopers and leave yourself with a workable pile.

Review the problem definition

Review the problem definition to remind yourself of what you are trying to achieve. You might also want to consider other criteria, such as potential cost, timescales or other difficulties. These are usually more important later in the overall process, such as when you are working on acceptance of ideas.

Sort into No and Maybe

Quickly look at each idea and place it into one of two piles: 'No' and 'Maybe'. This can be a tricky task as you do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, yet you still need to get the list down to a manageable size. If in doubt, put the idea on the 'Maybe' pile. Also ensure that you are not throwing out creative ideas such that you end up with a pile of very logical but uninspiring ideas. Your final shortlist should end up with a good number of intriguing ideas.

Be careful when doing this that you do not throw out all of the intriguing ideas and end up with a 'safe' but relatively uncreative solution.

Repeat as necessary

If the Maybe pile is still rather large, repeat the process until you have a workable shortlist.


I am buying an interesting house. I want to select a shortlist from a big list of details. I quickly sort the details into two piles: definite 'no's and 'maybes'. I then repeat the process a couple more times, a bit more slowly each time.

How it works

Negative selection is a common approach to thinning down a large list. It is easier to find something wrong with an idea than consider everything that is right.

See also

NUF Test


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