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Positives, Negatives


Creative tools > Positives, Negatives

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


When to use it

Use it when defining the problem to be explored.

It can also be used when seeking to implementing an idea, to explore the benefits it will give to others.

Use it when people are taking a critical view of things, to start them thinking differently.



  X        Long



  X        Psychological



    X      Group


How to use it

Explore negatives

Seek to understand the negative thing that are happening that you are working on resolving. Think of what you are doing as 'problem-solving'.

Ask questions such as:

  • What problems are we trying to solve?
  • What is going wrong that we want to fix?
  • Who is affected? What other problems do they have?
  • What would we like to leave behind?
  • What do we want to go away from?

Write the answers down as coherent problem statements, where the problem to be resolved is clearly identified.

Explore positives

Take a break to clear your mind of negative things, then start looking at the other side of the coin. Look for the positive things to be gained. Think of what you are doing as 'adding value'.

Ask questions such as:

  • What new benefits can we introduce?
  • What is going well that we want to improve?
  • Who is involved? What are they trying to achieve? What does 'value' mean to them?
  • What would we like to gain?
  • What do we want to move towards?

Write the answers down again as clear benefits statements, where the value to create is clear.


Review the statements you have created and decide whether you want to work solving a negative problem or creating positive value. Both are equally valid.


I am working with some young people who seem to be constantly bored. I look at problem-solving in this as:

  • Reduce their boredom.
  • Stop them from annoying other people.
  • Prevent them from getting into trouble.

I then look at the other side of the coin and seek positive benefits:

  • Get them interested in something.
  • Help them to feel important and useful.
  • Help them contribute to society.

Although I can do both at the same time, I decide that a positive focus for this creative session would be better and I choose to seek what will interest them.

How it works

A limitation that we sometimes put upon ourselves when defining a problem is to think about it either in positive terms about what we want, or negative terms and what we want to avoid. In fact the word 'problem' often subtly nudges us in the negative direction, trapped us in fixing today's problems rather than looking for tomorrow's opportunities. This technique prompts us to look in both directions.

See also



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