Dr Amy Climer

Episode 6: Develop Stage of Creative Problem Solving

In this episode you will learn tools to use for stage three of the Creative Problem Solving process – Develop.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to evaluate, strengthen and select your best ideas
  • How to use the PPCO tool to further develop your top ideas
  • How to design and use an Evaluation Matrix to assess the best idea to implement

Resources and Links:

Transcript

Feel like reading instead of listening? You can read it below. Enjoy!

Amy Climer: In today’s episode, we’re going to develop the best ideas you generated from episode #5.

Welcome to the Deliberate Creative Podcast episode #6. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the third stage in the Creative Problem Solving Process – the Develop Stage. Before we begin, I have to first say thank you to all of you. It is July 2, 2015 and this podcast has been live for one month. It’s like the one-month birthday so I’m pretty excited but mostly I’m excited because in the first month of this podcast, there were 1,849 downloads. I’m so excited! Anytime you do a creative project like this or you launch something new, you never really know what’s going to happen. I know I’ve launched a few projects in the past – this podcast, Climer Cards which I’ve talked about in the previous episode – and you never know what’s going to happen when you put it out there. I am just ecstatic that so many of you have listened to the podcast and are continuing to listen, and that you’re sharing the podcast with others. I just wanted to share with you one particular story that made me really happy about the podcast.

My brother listens to this podcast. He is a professor at Parsons School of Design in New York. His name is Greg Climer and he shared the podcast with some of the other professors in the school. One of his colleagues had a student come to him and was telling him that she was really struggling with being creative and with coming up with new ideas for the class projects. This colleague told the student, “Oh, you should go listen to the Deliberate Creative Podcast.” She did and apparently, it helped her see her creativity in a new way. She was really looking at it from the inherited sense where this idea that we’re all born creative or we’re not, which as you know if you’ve been listening at all by now, I don’t believe that at all. I believe that creativity is something that we can learn, we can teach, and we can develop with practice and with time. I was just so excited to hear that this student, I have no idea who she is or what her name is, that she is being positively influenced and helped by listening to the Deliberate Creative. Thank you, Greg, for helping get the word out and I’m excited. I hope that the student is being more creative and feeling better about her creativity. Thank you to all of you who have written reviews, who have shared tweets on Twitter, who have written Facebook posts, and were telling your friends about the Deliberate Creative. It makes me feel so good and more importantly, it helps other people become more creative and change their lives for the better. Thank you so much. 

On that positive note, let’s move into the content for today. This is the third episode in a fourpart series covering each stage of the Creative Problem Solving Process. If you’re following along then in the last episode, episode #5, you generated of dozens or hundreds of ideas for your challenge and you also narrowed down the list to the top ideas. Now you have two, three, four, maybe five ideas that you’re curious about possibly implementing and trying to figure out which of those top few is really the best one to move forward with. That is what the focus of this episode will be about. You’re going to be further developing those top ideas before implementing them.

To help you with the development, I have created a free workbook for you and you can download this workbook at the show notes, which is ClimerConsulting.com/006. That workbook has all the exercises from the first three stages of the Creative Problem Solving Process. All the exercises, they are referenced in episode #4, #5, and in this episode are in that. If you haven’t downloaded it, just go straight to that one. Ignore the previous two. So basically, each episode, I’m just adding more to the workbook. Download that. It’s free for you and you can follow along.

Let’s look at what is the Develop Stage. What does this mean? At this stage in the Creative Problem Solving Process, you have an idea and some of you are just ready to jump in and dive right in to implementing. I get that. I can be that way at times but what’s important is to further develop the idea and take some time to really evaluate it, to strengthen it, and select the solution that is the best fit for your particular challenge. If you have 2-4 solutions right now, you need to narrow that down and look at which one is the best. You could just go with your gut but sometimes, our gut is not right or sometimes, developing the idea further can help us look at things a little bit differently and at the end of the Develop Stage, you might choose a different one than you might have at the beginning.

As in the previous two stages, as in the Clarifying and the Ideate Stage, in the Develop Stage, you will also start with diverging. To do this, you’re going to use a tool called PPCO. PPCO stands for Pluses, Potentials, Concerns, and Overcoming concerns. You’re going to walk through this tool and help you implement this tool with the few ideas that you have. What you’re going to do is you’re going to focus on one idea at a time. Take idea #1 and you’re going to generate all the pluses you can about the idea. You don’t need to make an exhaustive list but list like 3-5, maybe six, eight pluses or strengths about that particular idea. That’s the Pluses. 

You’re then going to look at potentials. Think about what opportunities might arise if you were to implement this idea. You start with the phrase, “It might…” and think about spinoffs, future gains, what are some speculations you have, what are all the potentials and opportunities that would arise if this idea moved into action? P- Pluses, P- Potentials, C – Concerns. Concerns, now you’re going to list all the concerns you have with the idea. Every idea, there is some downside to it but you’re going to phrase your list in a positive way by using the stems “how to” or “how might” or “in what ways might” and the purpose of this is really invite solutions for how to overcome the problems, which we’ll get to Overcoming in a moment. For example, you want to avoid something like, “This is too expensive” and instead say, “How to make this more affordable” or “what are all the ways that I might make this less expensive?” By phrasing it in that way, your brain will start thinking about solutions instead of blocking off and looking at just the problem. That’s the Concerns.

Finally, we get to the O – Overcoming concerns. In this section, you’re going to write down how you overcome all the concerns that you address in that previous column. You’re going to address each concern one at a time, creating a list of ideas on how you’ll overcome each of those concerns. For instance, if you’re looking at “how do I make this more affordable,” you’re going to look at some various ways to make that more affordable. That could be scaling it back, bringing in other people, doing some fund raising, finding other resources, applying for a loan or a grant. You get the idea. You’re just going to generate all these possibilities of how you might overcome that concern.

That’s PPCO. It’s a useful tool to help you move past some of your assumptions and help you start to a little bit objectively look at what are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these different ideas I have. The other thing that happens is if you’re working on this with a team. It also helps you see other people’s perspectives and it helps the team get on the same page for each of the different ideas. I’ve used this with teams before and it has worked really well in helping teams come together. A lot of times what happens is there’s one idea that just naturally floats to the top but that doesn’t always happen. Let’s look at that.

After you finish the PPCO Process for each idea, you’re going to want to evaluate which one to move forward with. This is where we converge. We’ve already done the divergent and now we’ve moving into the convergent thinking. If you don’t have an idea that immediately floats to the top, that just seems to be the obvious solution, then you’re going to do some evaluation and you can use the Dot Voting Method that I mentioned in episode #5. You’ll also find the directions there in that workbook or you can create an evaluation matrix.

Let’s talk about how to create an evaluation matrix for this type of problem. The first thing you’re going to do is you’re going to list 3-5 criteria that you want to judge your ideas on. This may be some criteria that came about in the clarify stage. In fact, I highly recommend going back and looking at the data that you developed in the clarify stage and pull some criteria from that. You just want 3-5. Don’t go crazy with the criteria because that’s going to make it too complicated. Some criteria might be what are the costs, how much time is needed, is this customer focused, what resources are needed? Whatever criteria are important to evaluate your ideas on, use those. If you download the workbook, then you’ll be able to see an evaluation matrix in there and you can insert your ideas and your criteria in the matrix in the book.

Basically what it looks like is you’re going to put your ideas on the Y axis. Those are on the left hand side and then across the top on the X axis, you list all the criteria. Then you’re going to go through each idea one at a time and rank them according to your criteria. I like to just use a simple 1-5 scale with 5 being the best, 1 being the worst. You could even just use a smiley face, neutral face, or sad face. It doesn’t have to be highly scientific. You can have fun with it a little bit. Depending on your audience, depending on the group that you’re working with or if it’s just you, but basically, you’ll look at idea #1 and then move across to each piece of criteria to rate it.

For instance if budget is one of my issues, which for most of you it will be, then you’re going to rate 1-5, 5 doesn’t necessarily mean this is the cheapest. It just means this is within your budget. Obviously, free is going to probably always be within your budget. You may have a budget of $10,000 depending on what your situation is and who you are. If the idea is less than $10,000, you might decide to give that a 5. If the idea is $1 million and you only have a $10,000 budget, well then you’re probably going to give that 1 because that’s way outside of your budget.

The other thing to think about is as you’re evaluating these ideas – it works better if you focus on one idea at a time. For idea #1, you rate the budget and then you rate whether or not it’s customer focused, etc., and you’re going horizontally across. That tends to be a little better than looking at the budget for each idea and the reason is that sometimes, we can end up skewing our answers. Perhaps there’s one idea that you’re really hoping will win and then you go through and you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to give this one a 5 under budget but I’m going to intentionally give this one a 4 because I really want more points for this other one. Ultimately at the end of the day, you get to decide but it can be helpful to be a bit objective because sometimes our emotions aren’t always the best judge of what’s the right decision. If you want some more support for that, I’ve been listening to the book Decisive by the Heath Brothers. It’s really interesting. It explores all the research in how we make decisions. I highly recommend that book. 

If you were doing this with a team of people, then you’re going to need to converge everybody’s input into one document. Some of you will probably come up with a great online tool for how you can do this. I suppose you can do something like a SurveyMonkey or Google Forms, but sometimes if you only have 3-5 people who are evaluating the ideas, that works fine or you can just do it by hand. You get everybody’s feedback and then you really just simply add it up. So idea #1, this person has a budget of 5, that person has 4, another person has 5. The total is 14. Great, that goes into box #1 for budget and so on. At the end, you can just add up all the totals and you see what the score is. In this case, the higher score is the better score.

I don’t recommend using this and then immediately saying, “Oh well, idea #2 had the best score. That’s what we’re going with. Instead, use it as a tool to help you make the decision. Let’s say idea #2 had a score of 20 and idea #3 had a score of 21. Those are really close. Now maybe you narrow it down to those two and then maybe you talk a little bit further about which one of those will be the best to implement. It’s not necessarily a straight up contest if you will, like the highest score wins, but rather a tool to help you make decisions. Play with the evaluation matrix. See if that works for you. Like I said, I’ve used it with teams before and it just is a great tool to give more information and make that decision a little bit more objectively while still allowing some subjectiveness in there.

After you’ve selected which idea you want to move forward with, after you’ve done that converging, you’re going to rewrite your solution. It may have happened since the Ideate Stage, now you’ve gone to the Develop Stage, your solution may have changed slightly. What you’re going to do is rewrite it in this way, “Now what I see myself doing is…” or “Now what I we see doing ourselves doing is…” you can make that singular or plural, and you’re going to use that phrase to move into the next stage of the Creative Problem Solving Process, which is the Implementation Stage. That will be in the next episode. Again, you want to rewrite it so that the solution kind of helps you realize, “Okay, now this is what we’re doing” and don’t put, “Now, what I see myself doing is idea #1.” Actually create it so that it stands alone. Anybody walking in the room that wasn’t a part of the decision making process will understand what’s going on and understand what the group is going. 

Just to summarize, in the Development Stage, you were looking at how to evaluate and select the best idea that you’re going to actually implement. We spent some time going through this PPCO – Pluses, Potentials, Concerns, and Overcoming concerns. Then we looked at the evaluation matrix as a tool to help you decide which idea you actually want to implement. For this week, your weekly challenge is to develop your best ideas. Select the one that you’re going to use next week when we explore implementation. As always, if you get stuck or if you have questions, send me an email. I’d be happy to help you. My email address is Amy@ClimerConsulting.com. Shoot me an email, happy to help you if you get stuck. I highly recommend you download the workbook at the show notes and again that address is ClimerConsulting.com/006. Go there and download the workbook. I think you’ll find it really helpful.

Before I close, I want to again say thank you to everyone who has written a review. I love reading them. They help me stay motivated and they also help the podcast rate higher in iTunes which means more people find it and more people listen, and more people will become more creative which is the ultimate goal. I wanted to share a few reviews from some listeners that I just found really exciting and fun to read.

First Matt McWilliams wrote, “Wow! The Deliberate Creative is flat out awesome. Good production quality, easy to listen. I’m very impressed, Amy. Keep bringing it.” Thank you, Matt. I appreciate the review. The second review I want to share today is Julie Michelle wrote, “I’ve been listening to this podcast every day on the way to work and it is outstanding. Amy explains the ideas so clearly. I find myself using what I’ve heard throughout the day at work to help me be a better and more creative leader. I learned so much about creativity in my daily commute and I can’t wait for the next one to come out.” Wow, thank you Julie Michelle. I love it. Thank you so much for sharing that. I’m excited that it’s helping you become a better leader. That’s super cool.

Because I am so excited about reviews, I wanted to send a special thank you for writing the reviews therefore I’m holding a review writing contest. All you have to do to enter is write a review before Sunday, July 12th. Two reviewers will be randomly selected to receive a free deck of Climer Cards. These will be mailed to you and Climer Cards are one of the tools I mentioned in episode #5. It’s the tool you can use to generate creative ideas. You can also use them for team building activities and just to bring a group together. 

Two reviewers will receive a deck of cards and the best review written will also receive three free coaching sessions with me, which is a $900 value. If you need directions on how to write a review, go to ClimerConsulting.com/review and details about the contest can be found on the show notes. Thank you everyone who has written a review. It means so much to me. Keep them coming. It keeps me motivated and more importantly, it helps others learn about the Deliberate Creative Podcast.

All right you all, I hope you have a wonderful week. Work on that challenge of developing your ideas further. If you have questions, give me a call or an email. I’ll talk to you later. Bye.

Write a Review and Win!

Enter the Podcast Review Contest! Write a review by July 12, 2015 and you’ll be entered to win a free deck of Climer Cards or a series of three . Details here.

The Weekly Challenge

Your challenge for the week is to use the PPCO and Evaluation Matrix to narrow down to one idea that you will then implement. Share your selected ideas in the comments!

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Rave Reviews

  • Amy Inspires Creativity Growth in Everyone
    January 5, 2022 by cjpowers7 from United States

    Amy Climer’s show helps all of us grow our creative muscles. She is authentic and cares about her listeners. Amy empowers us with tools that work in the office, training sessions, and our communities. The best part is her ability to make what feels out of reach, something that can be accomplished with simple steps forward.

  • A great way to get inspired!!
    March 8, 2021 by binglish from United States

    Love listening to Amy’s podcast! Her guests are awesome and conversations are full of inspiring information.

  • A must for people who want to think better
    May 26, 2019 by Dhensch from United States

    Amy Climer hit a home run with this podcast and continues to get hits with every episode. I was hooked with the first one and binge-listened to the four solo episodes about the Creative Problem Solving process. Her knowledge of the subject of creativity and innovation is incredibly deep. And, she makes it easy for others to learn and apply. I have listened to other "expert" podcasts and Amy's is different in that she holds nothing back. Episode after episode offer practical insights, tips and tools. She has a generosity of spirit that is contagious.

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