Cool Way to Evaluate Ideas

Activists, politicians, talk show hosts, coworkers and many others are always trying to sell us ideas. Some of those ideas are important to us and some are not. Some of those ideas fit with our view of the world and others do not. Some of those ideas are worth some serious evaluation, especially when voting or public policy are concerned.

Here’s a good little technique for evaluating an idea. The technique is called PMI, for Plus-Minus-Interesting. The inventor is Edward De Bono, a pioneer in the development of tools for creative problem solving

The technique should be used in three phases. First think about the Pluses of the ideas. A Plus can be anything positive about the idea, even if the benefit seems small or if you don’t think the benefit would really materialize. A Minus.is anything bad about the idea, whatever your definition of “bad” happens to be. Anything that seems interesting in any way without being clearly good or bad counts as an Interesting aspect of the idea.

Try to do a PMI on a few ideas on which you might have a strong opinion:

1. Private handgun ownership should be outlawed in the United States
2. Juvenile delinquents (convicted of at least one crime) should be paid as long as they stay out of trouble.
3. Election campaigns should be funded publicly, with no private contributions allowed. (Let’s just assume that there is some way to stop individuals from funneling money or services, like television ads, to their favorite candidates.)

You can use PMI on one of your own ideas or on other peoples’ ideas. Please use it on other peoples’ ideas, especially if you disagree with their point of view. Maybe you will change your opinion, or not. Using PMI is almost certain to improve your understanding of the issue and why you have the opinion that you have.

But, there is one other use for PMI: Use it in conversations that involve a disagreement. You can talk about the pluses, the minuses, and the interesting points of an idea in turn. The different points could be weaved together instead of taking the pluses, minuses, and interesting points in some sort of order. Don’t tell the other person that you are trying to structure the debate in any fashion. Be willing to agree if the other side really does point out a minus.

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~ by chetdavis on September 21, 2007.

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