'The news' can damage your innovation power

Why we love bad news and how this reduces our will to innovate

As a professional innovation facilitator, I naturally keep abreast of a bunch of innovation newsfeeds. The messages I read, tend to be optimistic, or even euphoric at times.

Every single day, scientists from all over the world experience a breakthrough, inventors dream up the most futuristic applications while visionary entrepreneurs fuel billions into the technology sector of the future. Flying cars, a holiday at Mars or eternal life? Everything seems within reach.

We’re living in an innovation explosion. Change has never been so fast, impactfuland ubiquitous - and we’d better know it!


The news

When I proceed to read the papers or watch the news, however, I find myself in a different world entirely. There’s very little optimism, let alone euphoria.

The vast majority of mainstream media messages are still about war, death, hunger and violence. In the event of positive news, it’s stowed away at the end of the segment, as a kind of happy ending. Turning it into a gimmick, rather than ‘actual’ news with value.

It’s striking to see the differences between these two streams of media and the world view they construe. While one seems to be a futuristic version of the garden of Eden, the other conjures up images of a kind of Armageddon.

What causes this?

In ‘Bad is stronger than good’, Roy F. Baumeister describes how two events ofthe same intensity affect us differently, depending on the event being either positive or negative.

Negative events are far more impactful and also tend to linger longer. What’s more, we’re downright attractedto it: a phenomenon known as ‘negativity bias’. Apparently we have an innate preference for negative news. Something cunning news outlets know all too well.

So they use negative news to vie for higher ratings then their competitors. The classic rule of thumb for many editors still is: the more death and destruction, preferably close to home, the higher the news value.

It’s a cold but simple economic truth: smileys don’t sell, death does. 

How does it affect you?

This negativity bias of ours impacts the way we consume media. This in turn, shapes the media outlets. And these media outlets, in their own turn, affect our world view. Ask any Joe Public about the state of the world we live in. He’ll most likely tell you that things are bad. All that war, scandals, raging lunatics on the loose…. surely, this can’t be good?

Well actually, it can. Looking at the numbers, we’re actually doing great. The economy isblooming, unemployment rates are dropping, there has never been less hunger, fewer wars, etc. In short: the world has never been better.

And yet, we feel as if it has. Our worldview is completely misconstrued by an unbalanced input of news, that, to top it all off, we misinterpret.

  • extreme poverty
  • Battle death rate

How does it affect innovation?

This erroneous worldview causes our faith in our future to waver. Time and again, research has shown that we feel that things will be worse for us next year, in comparison to how they are now. While all evidence points to the contrary. And that’s disastrous. As confidence or faithis one of the prerequisites for innovation.

Innovation is about ‘trying new things’. The results of anything new are by definition unpredictable. When you innovate, you take risks. Moreover, people are less likely to take risks when the context becomes unclear. And thus, negative news reduces our will to innovate.

Hence the title of this blog, albeit a little exaggerated. I, to, am guilty of using the negativity bias in order to get you to read this article. Forgive me. It was for a good cause.

What can you do about it?

Naturally, you should still watch or read the news (even though newsmakers could do something about the balance of their newsfeed). Because another important prerequisite for innovation is building knowledge and expertise. A well informed worldview is bound to be of great help.

But perhaps it’s not a bad idea to stop and reflect on your media intake. What does it look like? Perhaps you can switch out some classic channels for other, more hopeful channels? Perhaps you’re already following innovation leaders in your industry on social media? These are small adjustments, that, over time, can have a big impact.

The take away is thus: have a balanced media intake (with a slight preference for positive channels), build your confidence and most of all: keep on innovating!

Pieter Daelman

Some of my tips to spice up your media mix:


-       Futurism
-       Insh 

-       Big think
-       Singularity university 

-       Exponential wisdom

Do you have any interesting, positive news channels? Feel free to share them below!

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