The Problem Mindset

Every innovative endeavor poses challenges. When it comes to sharing ideas, the challenge is often in creating a context in which ideas are valued. Unfortunately, the dreaded “yes, but” is a common negative response heard in brainstorming sessions across the globe. Chances are you’ve heard a few before.

Negativity in a new idea

  • “Yes, but we’ve already tried that.” 

  • “Yes, but it costs too much.”

  • “Yes, but we would never do that.”

 The result? People stop contributing, ideas get safer and the end product feels a lot less “new.”

Human nature being what it is, it’s easy to be swept up in negative thinking—and train ourselves to see only resistance, barriers and even failure when approaching challenges. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

“I have learned in life that if I am against things—at best, I can block them from happening,” commented South African teacher, Oz Swallow in a talk at the Creative Problem Solving Institute years ago. “Instead, if I focus on creating what I am for, I can truly make a difference in this world.”

Solution Mindset: Forness® Thinking

In innovation, as in life, negative responses only lead to dead ends. In addition to new ideas dying out, progress stalls, ideas get safer instead of more innovative, and team members quit participating altogether.

At Ideas To Go, we employ a method called the Forness® response to counteract the "Yes, But...", unlock your creative potential and create a world of YES.

yes but

When applied to ideas, Forness® thinking allows you to first focus on the qualities of an idea that drive toward achieving the greater goal, instead of wasting time talking about the elements you’re against. So rather than tossing out an entire idea because certain parts “won’t work,” Forness® thinking helps identify all the valuable elements in each idea and then apply them towards achieving your goals—thus unlocking the creative potential in every idea.

Once you've identified what you're "for," the method goes a step further by encouraging you to think about what you "wish for." In this way, problems become opportunity areas for ideation instead of roadblocks.

When you eliminate negative thinking and look at the good in every idea, projects move forward faster, participants are encouraged and engaged, and ideas stretch further. So ideas not only survive, they have a chance to grow—and truly transformative change can make even the impossible possible.

Transform Innovation with the Forness® Thinking User Guide

Practical Applications

Although Forness® thinking can be applied to any kind of problem, it works especially well for teams working in the trenches of innovation and new product development. In fact, it can be applied through every step of the process.

First and foremost, it’s essential for goal orientation.It’s important for any team to establish what they’re trying to achieve, i.e., what they’re “for.” Then, the team can direct all their efforts on achieving that end goal.

Once Forness® thinking is established, its effectiveness can be seen across the NPD ideation process. 


  • Needs Assessment: Clarification of your goal.

  • Purpose Definition: The statement of what you are for—the goal.

  • Opportunity Expansion: Identify and select “areas of interest” and focus on the areas you are for.

  • Idea Generation: Create and share ideas you believe will get you closer to your goal and look for what’s good about them.

  • Criteria Setting: Define the type of ideas you are for—that will fulfill the goal.

  • Idea Selection: Focus your attention on the ideas you are for—that get you to the goal (do not waste time discussing and focusing on ideas that do not get you to the goal).

  • Idea Refinement/Definition: Enhance what you are for—what meets the criteria and purpose, and find solutions to your concerns—how to achieve the criteria and goal?

"A Forness® response is the difference between asking, "Why would you ever put those two things together?" and asking, "Why on earth wouldn't you?"
- Creative Consumers® associate, Shaun Baldwin

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