All of the ideation approaches we have looked at generate a number of ideas. These ideas need to be assessed and those that will be realised must be chosen.
De Bono’s Thinking Hats is a good tool to use to structure the assessment meetings.
Stage 1 – blue hat
Agree the purpose and scope of the meeting and how the meeting will be conducted.
Where there are multiple ideas to consider, as might emerge from a brainstorm, the meeting might consider the ideas in turn using the following flow:
Stage 2 – white hat
Receive necessary information to enable ideas to be evaluated
Stage 3 – black hat
Assess the ideas for problems, risks and issues.
Stage 4 – yellow hat
Consider the upsides of the ideas looking for advantages and benefits.
Stage 5 – red hat
Receive emotional reaction to the ideas. (Just because an idea is logically sound, for instance, it doesn’t mean that it will be acceptable. There may be a strong emotional issue which means the idea must be rejected.)
Stage 6 – green hat
This might consider how the idea can be adjusted, if possible, to address any negative issues that emerged in the black hat and red hat stages and take advantage of the positives that emerged in the yellow and red hat stages.
If the idea has been significantly modified it may be necessary to re-run stages 2 to 5.
Stage 7 – blue hat
Review the meeting’s assessment and come to a conclusion. Will the idea be:
- Investigated further
Also identify the next step for ideas which are not killed off.
Assessing Intermediate Impossibilities
Where intermediate impossibilities are being assessed it is yellow hat thinking that looks for the up side, the benefits of an idea. In this case what is the essence of the idea and how might it be applied to deliver the desired benefit.
So when assessing intermediate impossibilities an additional yellow hat stage may be required between stage 1 and stage 2 (stage 1a). In this stage the intermediate impossibility would be converted into a practical idea which would then be assessed through the subsequent steps.
Using the hats in this way may seem to make the process seem long winded. This is not necessarily the case. Breaking the assessment down into these stages simply reflects the assessment process.
Meetings become extended and unproductive when different points of view are strongly held and trigger conflict.
For instance Fred is expressing strong views about an idea’s benefits (yellow hat) and Joe has strong views about its disadvantages (black hat). Joe feels he must express these and does while Fred is expressing his view. In the meantime Harry has strong concerns because of potential, ethical issues (red hat) and he wades into the discussion.
This results in a confusion of yellow, black and red hat thinking which takes a long time, generates frustration and because each case is from a different perspective they are difficult if not impossible to reconcile. The outcome is confusion, frustration and conflict which make the meeting longer and more difficult than it needs be.
Separating out the modes of thinking enables participants to align their modes of thinking so they better understand where each other is coming from. They can also align their modes of working so they can work together more effectively.
Using the hats approach allows each participant to know they will have an opportunity to express their views and get a hearing. At the end all the views will be weighed up and a mutually agreeable conclusion can be reached. In short the process is streamlined.
It’s because of this kind of effect that those who use the Thinking Hats approach regularly testify that meetings are easier, shorter and more productive when it’s used.
Ideas would normally be assessed against a set of considerations appropriate for your situation. These will vary dependent upon the nature of the problem being addressed and the requirements of the organisation concerned.
The assessment criteria would cover areas such as:
- Spirituality and Morality
A set of typical assessment questions and considerations are set out bellow.
Organisations ought to already have measurable criteria which are set according to their strategic and operational requirements such as:
- Must fit the strategic markets/ sectors/ countries in which we work.
- Must be available in the same financial year as the project starts.
- Must not require more than x% of our available income or people to implement.
- Must show a return better than some strategic value, e.g margin greater than x%, reduce operational costs by y%, be available to n% of the target sector, improve response times by m% and so on.
There are other, more general questions that also affect the assessment outcome.
The questions may use qualitative words such as “better”. The meaning of such qualitative words is context sensitive and so can only be properly defined in your specific situation. For instance a specific service which is not feasible for a commercial company could be highly feasible for a volunteer organisation because the cost structure would be quite different.
Here follows some suggested assessment questions. This list is not comprehensive and there will be other questions to add to the list which are relevant to your situation:
- Is the need real?
- Does the idea actually address the need?
- Does it provide real rather than hoped for benefits?
- Are there better solutions already available?
Cost (money and resources)
- Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
- Is the necessary investment available? Can it be financed? How?
- Can the operational costs be covered (commercially will it generate enough profit)?
- Is the cost/benefit better than that of other possible projects and activities (important where resources are scarce)?
- Does it meet any strategic financial criteria?
- Are the risk management costs acceptable?
- Are the resources and necessary skills really available to implement and deliver it?
- If it’s within the scope of our skill set, have we actually got enough people/resources to make it happen when we want it to happen?
- Can it be achieved in an appropriate timescale?
- Can it really be achieved in the proposed timescale?
- Have the risks been identified and can they be managed or mitigated?
- Does it fit the organisation’s vision, strategies, goals, processes and normal methods? If not can it or the organisation be appropriately modified?
- Can our normal processes cope with it?
- Is the idea sound?
- Is the solution complete? What’s missing?
- Will it work in practice?
- What factors would block its implementation and can they be overcome?
- What are the weaknesses? Are they fatal? Can they be addressed?
- Is it too complex for us to implement or deliver?
- Is the benefit big enough relative to other candidate projects?
- Why would we prefer to use our resources on this idea in preference to another?
- Would it still work if we shared the money and resources with another project and took longer to implement it?
Spirituality and morality
- Is it ethical?
- Is it in line with Biblical principles?
- Does it reflect the character of Christ?
- Will it glorify God?
- Does it advance the Kingdom of God?
Ideas which pass the assessment would normally be presented to the leadership team for approval and authorisation. This would include the allocation of appropriate funds and resources in return for an agreed capability delivered by a specific date.
This would normally require appropriate financial and project plans being prepared and presented.
A team would be established and programme of work of some kind will also be instigated to bring the idea to reality. Refer back to the Leading Through Others module to consider the issue of Teams. We won’t look further at the work programme in Growing the Servant Heart but recommend that you refer to a Claybury International eBook “Project Management for Christian Leaders” which you can download free of charge via the following link http://christian-leadership.org/downloads-2/