Negative Positivity Analysis: Why That Idea Won’t Work, So You Can Know How To Make It Work


A few days ago, an idea was pitched to me. I analysed the idea in my usual style of analysis.

I start first with why it will not work before going into why it might work. I’m an accountant by training with a degree in economics. I never straight away assume something – an idea – will work. Almost never.

My challenge however, comes from people that pitch ideas to me. Most of them are what I’ll call ‘Positive. Absolutely. This will work’ people. The are the ones with the ‘creator’ brains.
These people,most times, cannot bear to hear anything negative about their idea. They’ll wince, fidget and give you a look like you’ve just killed their dream.
So I find myself having to read them a caveat emptor before giving my analysis on ideas, projections etc.

A simple explanation of my analysis style goes thus: I start with why it won’t work so that you can, straight away, know what you have to do to make it work. This is the negative positivity analysis.

All you have to do to make your idea work or to make that projection realistic is to find a response/answer to my ‘negativity’ so it can become a positive for you.

This principle is validated in Mike Harris‘s story on how he founded First Direct, the first telephone only bank; and Egg, the first internet bank.

In his book, Find Your Lightbulb, he detailed how his mother told him First Direct could not work because customers hate having to repeat queries when they are being transferred from one operator to another. So as part of his plan, the bank was set up so that you speak to a live person within 6 rings and you do not have to repeat any query when been passed from one operator to another. That is still the case 25 years on.

Mike goes on to say that as a matter of principle, anytime he pitches an idea and he’s told it will never work. He always finds out why they think it will never work. That feedback, according to him, is crucial to the success of that idea.

To all you sensitive souls out there, let your critics be your designers.


Editor’s Note: Dapo Adesanya is the Country Director Innovation Institute Nigeria. They are putting together a one day training titled Managing Innovation In The Work Place

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