I recently taught a class in scientific research. One of the exercises included giving constructive feedback, pointing out that talking about strengths instead of just weaknesses can help people improve as well as negative points can help to make progress. Even though I had heard and spoken these rules a dozen times, it hit me, that I was really bad in seeing the good elements, especially in research. I am not generally a negative person, so I thought about where this was coming from. I then realized that in my entire studies in psychology I hardly ever learned to see the positive aspects. The goal was to learn to think critically. The usual task was to read a paper and then list all the shortcomings. The fact that someone was actually able to publish this writing, giving it a high quality stamp and that it probably was important for the progression of knowledge in that area somehow got lost in all the criticism. Further the point was to find a little gap that could be filled with new research, based on the shortcomings of others. My perception was that it was about finding mistakes and not doing them ourselves. Whenever I tried writing something myself, I got stuck immediately, because I couldn’t finish a thought before the alarm bells of inner criticism went off.
In business strategy class I can remember learning to deconstruct a market situation and look at shortcomings or gaps and then use this gap as a competitive advantage. Deconstructing some topic into its parts with analytical thinking is very important and of course it has to be thought in schools and universities. But creative thinking, “constructing thinking” was not trained. If we want to solve long lasting societal, environmental and business problems, it is not enough to deconstruct the situation and look at gaps. Analytical thinking can help us find the problems, but creative thinking can help us solve them. So we need creative thinking for innovative solutions. We need to see the positive aspects of what has been done, honor those and build on them. This does not only address education, it also addresses business. If we can train and attain this creative and positive mindset, we can also start to see more win-win situations in daily business life.
Watch Ken Robinson talk on a facet of this topic: (http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html)