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Business Creativity & Innovation

Using Negativity Wisely

There is a lot of it about, negativity. Negativity is often seen as disruptive and something to be banned from organisations. Often we can spend far too much energy fighting it so why don’t we make use of it? In a previous article I described the use of Reverse (or Negative) Brainstorming as one of the ways we could do this. This was purely for generating ideas for new products and services but you could use it in many other ways too. Here is just one possibility.

Do you have any ideas about the things that could wreck your business? Market changing new products announced by competitors, new government legislation, flash flooding or severe bouts of food poisoning are all possibilities! Some of these threats are predictable (to some extent) such as flooding but many are not. It is likely that you have the predictable events covered already so let us focus on the unpredictable for now. As well as protecting your business you could actually discover ways to threaten the competition.

As you would expect, we are going to use creative thinking techniques but in a slightly more focused way than normal. Instead of asking “What could destroy our business tomorrow?” questions should be more relevant to the type of business that you have. To start off with try coming up with some ideas about the areas in which your business might be vulnerable. If you manufacture products from raw materials then you might be vulnerable in areas such as production or delivery of raw materials, continuity of energy supply, or distribution of finished products. You might also be threatened by Government legislation or exchange rates if you export.

Now let us get focused. If we have identified that transport and distribution is a potential issue then ask:

  • What could stop us obtaining raw material or delivering to customers?
  • What would happen if the price of diesel fuel rose dramatically?
  • What would happen if our competitors did a deal with road haulage companies?

If you were making consumer products you could also be worried about bad PR if your products were faulty or even killed people! You get the idea?

To get the best ideas you will need to involve as diverse group of people as possible and make the questions relevant to your business or business.

If you do identify serious threats then you can do something to reduce their impact or avoid them altogether. Identifying a ground breaking product that might put you out of business is also good since it provides you with the opportunity to develop such a product and hence outfox your competitors.

Wherever there is a threat there is also opportunity, so get thinking!

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