PMI – Evaluating Ideas Easily

Previously, on this blog…

I finished last week’s series of posts with DRCDreamer, Realist, Critic. It’s easy, I think to be a Critic, but much harder to be a Critic in a rigorous or fair way. Today’s acronym gives a way to do that. PMI or Plus, Minus, Interesting is a thinking tool made popular by Edward de Bono. One can think of it as an improvement to Pros & Cons lists that people make when they’re trying to make a decision.

I’ve used it a lot over the last few years, because it is a neat and simple approach to getting information for evaluating ideas. Simply, it delivers three lists of points about factors that people find positive (Plus), negative (Minus) and things that people find Interesting, or find curious in some way. For example, an idea that I have heard about recently is that of scheduling specific times when I read and write email, rather than be open to it through the day (which is how I generally engage).

I am trying to decide about whether or not to practice this behaviour now, so it makes for a good example.

Examining an idea

First of all, what are the possible positives of doing this?

Plus:

  • Allows for more uninterrupted time in the day
  • Don’t have to break concentration to reply
  • Allows for planning of day and work flow

Then, consider the possible negatives of scheduling email time:

Minus:

  • Not as able to respond to emails if someone needs a quick response
  • Might not meet other’s expectations of speedy response
  • Could be that allocated time is not sufficient

Finally, we look at the idea and see what stands out in an interesting way, or what other thoughts are suggested:

Interesting:

  • Makes me wonder what other things I do could be scheduled to make things easier
  • Use email client software to automatically park and prioritise emails for reading as they come in
  • Write or draft email in spare moments

Based on this information now, this gives me an overview of the idea and what I think and feel about it. Some of the items that are in the Interesting list could be placed under Plus or Minus by someone else – but for me they are Interesting, they pique my curiosity. I might need to add more items to lists, but this gives me a starting point.

PMI is a great tool to help decision making, but I think there are several other areas where it could be helpful. In a similar fashion to 5W1H (see last week’s post), it can help to determine various aspects of a situation; in particular by exploring the positive (Plus) aspects of a problem, it might help reframe a problem as a challenge.

I have used PMI a lot during proposal presentations when people, so that I could quickly and easily summarise various points that the presenter was making. By dividing a page of A4 into three sections I could capture points, and even join ideas and make connections.

Critiquing ideas is an important talent: it’s necessary when someone is suggesting a course of action or something that you “need” to do. It is essential when you are trying to weigh up the merits of your own ideas.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)