Activity 1: Become aware of negative thinking

Description of the activity: Many people have learned from an early age and developed a tendency to analyze and criticize something new and critical has become second nature to them. We have become experts in it.

While there may be a few exceptions, most of us are programmed with the “automatic no” answer. Through training and conditioning at school and at home, we have learned to criticize first and think later. It’s almost as if we’ve learned that it’s better to reject something new outright than even consider its potential value as a solution.

What is your typical first reaction when someone proposes a new idea? Do you usually say something like “That’s great,” “That’s a great idea,” or “That’s really interesting”? Probably not. To illustrate this automatic tendency, here is a little exercise to reflect on and discuss.

Materials used and organization:
Empty A-4 sheets – list of withhold negative reactions – white board
List of statements copied (see below for examples but complete yourself)
Group size: group or subgroups
Time: 40 minutes / at the start of innovation


  1. Think of an example that fits the group about an organizational change, a new project, a new idea.
  2. Give five minutes and let each person come up with at least 8 negative reactions.
  3. Everyone has to pair up with another person and compare their reactions. Are there similarities, are there any special ones that everyone in the group needs to hear.
  4. Give the paper and have the pair find which matches and have them mark one or two that are not on the list and write them down on a white board.
  5. Now what would happen if a list of positive responses were created?
  6. Try it and give it five minutes.
  7. Record each positive response on the white board.
  8. Most likely this second list will be shorter than the first. Positive thinking is much more difficult and think about it. Discuss the effects of “the quick negative reactions” versus “positive reactions” on the proposer, what it does to that person.

With this activity you have achieved the following objectives:

  • Everyone becomes aware of the ingrained tendency to give negative reactions.
  • Everyone is becomes aware that new ideas are often rejected by negative reactions.
  • Everyone becomes aware of the effects of negative reactions with regards to the person who comes up with a new idea.