Positive Power of Negative Thinking: Great Leaders Build Great Businesses on the Realities of Negative Thinking…

Power of positive thinking is a trademark slogan in business, society… it’s folklore wisdom, fill your mind with positivity and you shall reap the benefits… According to Roger Covin; negative thinking and negative emotions tend to be seen as akin to– germs, viruses… things to be avoided, fought…

The problem is that while positive thinking can yield many benefits, but when taken to the extreme– the excessive and rigid search for positivity can bring about the opposite effect… When economists surveyed more than 1,000 CEOs, they found– more than 80% scored as ‘very optimistic’…  On average the research indicates that people who never worry have lower job performance than those who worry from time to time.

Studies also show that when entrepreneurs are highly optimistic, their new ventures bring in less revenue and grow more slowly… more over, when CEOs are highly optimistic they take on more risky debt, swing for the fences more often, and put their companies in greater jeopardy… Ultimately, both styles are deadly at the extreme: Pessimism– becomes fatalistic, and optimism– becomes toxic… The key is to find– a sweet spot, more moderate ranges that combine the benefits of both approaches…

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In the words of Richard Pine; the best chief executives know that too much optimism is a dangerous thing, that wise and productive leadership means striking a balance between optimists’– blue sky view of the world, and pessimists’– more clear-eyed assessment of any given situation… Take one part salesman, one part inventor, one part lawyer, one part safety engineer, stir gently and you’ve got a great chief executive… If you’re the kind of person who’s always telling people to look on bright side, you might want to reconsider. Whether people succeed is not a matter of thinking positively or negatively, but rather whether they choose strategies that match their thinking styles….

According to Gabriele Oettingen; positive thinking without a negative balance hinders a person’s abilities. The craze for positive thinking overlooks the value of negative thinking, and particularly in business where some negative thinking is critical in the evaluation of plans, anticipating unexpected problems, planning for ‘what if’ possibilities… sprinkling a bit of negative thinking to balance positive thinking and to encourage action is critical for success… The reality is that real leadership requires both positive and negative thinking… According to Vergil Den; face the harsh facts– bad things happen… Studies have shown that people often overestimate what they know and underestimate what they don’t know…

In the article Harness Positive Power of Negative Thinking by Oliver Burkeman writes: It’s sixty years since Norman Vincent Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking’– and though his message may have been radical back then, it’s the conventional wisdom now. Self-help gurus, motivational speakers, business people, presidential candidates, and many psychologists agree– optimism is the foundation of a happy life, and negativity is for losers…

Those who consider themselves naturally cantankerous and gloomy have always felt left out of what the philosopher Peter Vernezze calls ‘cult of optimism’… However, there is a growing body of research suggesting that negative thinking, if strategically pursued, it has a role to play, too… Ancient philosophical, spiritual traditions, from the Stoics to the Buddhists, recognized it’s a life-enhancing potential… Here are three ways to benefit from their approach:

  • Focus on the worst-case scenario, not the best: Visualizing your ideal future is a staple of self-help bestsellers– but vividly picturing success can backfire badly. In one series of experiments, when experimental subjects were asked to visualize an event, their energy levels actually dropped; apparently, they were less motivated because they’d already imagined the event… Besides, negative visualization can be an excellent antidote to anxiety. The Stoics called this ‘the premeditation of evils’, while modern-day researchers call it ‘defensive pessimism’…
  • Consider getting rid of your goals: Among management scholars, the pro-goal consensus is breaking down. Recent research suggests that the ‘over-pursuit of goals’ can prompt employees to cut ethical corners. According to Saras Sarasvathy; successful entrepreneurs rarely stick rigorously to detailed, multi-year business plans… Instead, they just start and keep correcting their course as they go. Their philosophy isn’t so much– ‘ready, aim, fire’ as ‘ready, fire, aim’; and, they keep re-aiming…
  • Don’t get too attached to ‘positive thinking’: Tell yourself you’re a winner, and you might end up feeling worse… When researchers in Canada tested the efficacy of self-help affirmations– specifically the phrase ‘I am a winner!’ they found that those who already had low self-esteem experienced a further decline in their mood… According to Daniel Wegner; trying to control emotions, can be an invitation to the ‘ironic effect’– struggle too hard to eliminate negativity and you risk generating more of it…

In the article Should Leaders Accentuate The Negative? by Steve Denning writes: Negative events are good for getting attention, negative communication is central to accomplishing key activities of transformational leadership; i.e., getting an audience’s attention… Human beings give more weight to losses than to gains, to pains than to joys, to negative events than to positive events… As a result, negative events are more attention-getting… but, if a leader is looking to ‘inspire’ action it requires positive stories: Leaders can get attention through negative stories but when they are trying to ‘inspire’ people towards action than positive messages generally work better.

The sustained enthusiasm required by leadership is a positive emotion… hence, a leader’s communication for ‘change’ needs to be positive… It’s the contagiousness of a leader’s positive emotion and energy that stimulates desire for a new future… A frequent leadership mistake is to try to spark action with negative stories. Negative stories get people’s attention but don’t spark action– actions comes from positive stories that shows the way forward… Thought must also be given to what follows a positive story; merely stimulating desire for change may prove ephemeral, unless an idea of change is reinforced with reasons. This is typically done with stories that are neutral in tone…

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In the article Negative Thinking by Ken Ward writes: Positive thinking has desirable consequences, however, it seems that this may not be the case unless it’s mixed with a little negative thinking… Those who practice negative thinking are more able to handle difficult situations… According to David Corbin; negative thinking is important in business, and it’s crucial that managers allow for negative issues, including; confrontation, disagreements, bringing-up negative matters…

Successful businesses need to encourage a culture of open expression of– positive and negative ideas, but this also opens the organization to a form of messy management… When  management prepares– plans, projects… they need to be review on the assumption that their flawed… Business, organizational… management must add a dose of negative thinking in order to succeed… With every plan… management must spend time playing devil’s advocate and find out everything that might go wrong…

In the article Benefits Negative Thinking by James Adonis writes: Positive employees are seen as team players but negative workers are viewed as outcasts, troublemakers… The consequence is that the realistic and rational people, usually the negative thinkers, remain unheard… researchers discovered that negative people communicate better, think more clearly, make fewer mistakes, are less gullible, and are better at decision-making... The reason? Negative people have enhanced ‘information-processing strategies’, which means they use the critical part of their brain more successfully than cheerful people…

The overall conclusion from researchers is that the benefits of negative thinking are critical– must be embraced in all business discussions… Most important, there’s a place for both– positive and negative– in every workplace… However, what it all comes down to is that negative people pay more attention to their surroundings. They’re not always negative solely for the sake of being negative. They’re just more cognizant of what’s happening around them, and as a result their moods change depending on what they notice… Negative thinking isn’t superior to positive thinking, but neither is positive thinking the panacea for all workplace ills. Sometimes what’s required is a dose of reality. And, it’s the negative thinkers, the ones who are perceived as troublesome, annoying… often provide the cure…

In the article Being Negative Actually Helps by Peter Shallard writes: There are benefits for being ‘constructively negative’, including; productivity, creativity, effectiveness… The problem with purely positive thinking is two-fold: 1. They construct a mental universe where everything is perfect (when it isn’t) 2. They create a nasty in congruence with the inner self (which always knows the truth) that leads to the most insidious form of self-sabotage…

Getting negative can be wonderfully empowering, because it drives a respect for the reality of the situation and limitations… Without negativity you can never even begin to plan strategy for engaging, confronting– problems, limitations… Positive thinking produces– amazing dreams, visions, goals… Negative thinking produces– powerful plans, strategies… Embrace it, and use planned bursts of negative, constructing thinking to flesh out the positive visions, goals…

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In the article Positive vs. Negative Thinking: It Isn’t Either/Or by Louise Altman writes: According to positive thinking critics, the ‘blindness’ of positive thinking has led us to make terrible business, personal, societal… choices, for example; business leaders often cushion the blow of negative news by trying to demonstrate an ‘upside’, which is done everyday throughout the business world… And it’s no secret that sadly, obfuscation is a common business practice…

There’s nothing positive about thinking positively… The simple truth is that the thinking of positive thoughts is a matter of faith for hundreds of millions of people. The dictionary defines faith as– the confident belief in the truth, value and trustworthiness of a person, place or thing… It further defines faith as– belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence… Studies focusing on positive thought, optimism, positive psychology… have produced mixed results over the past two decades…

Recently one study was touted as the ‘proof’ that positive thinking not only doesn’t work – but that it may actually diminish our ability to achieve our goals… According to Martin Seligman; effects of optimism do not come from unjustified positivity but from thinking negatively less often. Learning optimism is about building greater resiliency, improving our performance by changing the way we interpret events, not by putting on a happy face in every situation

Negative thinking (fear, doubt, worry…) is a fact of life and of business… You can’t stop negative thinking from entering the workplace, but you can stop it from limiting you and your team... The positive power of negative thinking is a check to the natural, irrational exuberance we feel when we try to attain success. Also, by thinking about the negative events, if and when they occur, the bitter taste of their impact will be lessened thanks to planning…

According to Michelle Kerrigan; negative thinking is a catalyst in the change process… managing change means managing negative thinking– including your own. True transformation works best when it is driven by emotion and by support, and by believing everything will be OK, after you worry that it won’t…

According to Seth Godin; positive thinking and confidence improves performance… whereas, negative thinking feels realistic, protects us, lowers expectations… In many ways, negative thinking is a lot more fun than positive thinking– so we do it… Positive thinking is hard, but worth it…

According to J. D. Fencer; positive thinking– it doesn’t guarantee success, but lack of it guarantees failure… But, the facts remain– a healthy dose of both positive and negative thinking are required for a successful business, organization…