We hear a lot these days about cognitive bias. That how we view the world can alter what we see. Yet, do you know there are a number of different kinds of cognitive bias. The one I want to highlight today is negativity bias. Especially, in light of how it can show up in our work. Often rewarded.
Negativity bias is a natural cognitive response humans have under stress. Though like fight/flight/freeze responses, if we are aware of it and work at, we can operate in a positivity bias instead.
It’s one of our automatic responses to danger. As human animals we are wired to see danger. To feel negative emotions stronger than positive ones. And to see problems.
In fact, we reward problem solving as a skill! And often talk about looking for customer pain points. We motivate people take to action by resonating with their pain.
The problem is when we use negativity bias automatically. Or exaggerate the problems. We see problems at the exclusion of possibility. Or seek to solve problems not worth solving. Twisting the saying…. When we view the world as a nail, we end up only using a hammer.
The opposite cognitive mode is positivity bias. In this mode we focus on learning. Instead of seeing the problem, we look for the lesson. It is the world of creativity. Positivity leads to seeing the way out, not only the danger.
To me, the best innovators cultivate positivity bias. It’s why I favour “jobs to be done” theory in innovation. Over a focus on problem management. When we focus on the job rather than the problems, we open up solution spaces. We innovate or iterate how we do the job.
Because we have been conditioned to look at problems and pain points, it take some getting used to consider the job to be done instead. If it is natural to first look for problems, then reframing the problem might help. Look past the problem at hand and focus on the desired outcome. You may find the problem disappears with the negativity bias.
And while positivity bias works for innovation of products, it might take longer to let go of it in terms of promoting products. Though I would suggest that if you do you may see who responds to your marketing efforts may change. You may soon attract more people who are grounded in a positivity bias. After all, innovation brings forth other changes. Hopefully those you view with positivity!
Where do you see this showing up in your work?
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