Decision Making

by Ian Moore

PMI

Thus the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody has yet thought about that which everybody sees.

Schopenhauer

This technique is called Plus/Minus/Interesting and can be thought of as an extension to the ‘pros and cons’ technique, but with another column for ‘interesting’. We generally classify situations into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This leaves us nowhere to identify things which are neither of these things, but which could lead to new thinking.

To satisfy our conventional thinking, it is beneficial to classify the ‘good’ and ‘bad’, so that we can then can move on to thinking about the ‘interesting’. This ‘interesting’ category can contain ideas that just come to mind while you are thinking up the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. You can also generate ideas for the ‘interesting’ by looking at the ‘good’ ideas and seeing if any of these ideas generate ‘interesting’ ideas. You can also re-examine the ‘bad’ ideas in a similar way, by using an ‘if this was not the case’ provocation. The ‘interesting’ ideas should not be evaluated, but simply written down. Leave your evaluating for the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’.

The technique is an interesting way of combining your logical and creative thinking skills in a positive and productive way.

Using the technique

  • On a piece of paper draw three columns with the words ‘Plus’, ‘Minus’ and ‘Interesting’ at the top.
  • For the decision you are trying to make, write down words or phrases as they occur to you in the relevant columns.
  • If you are starting to feel stuck, stop and then look at the ‘pluses’ to see what ‘interesting’ ideas these generate. Also look at the ‘minuses’ and see what ‘interesting’ ideas are generated. You may also like to try considering some interesting ideas and see if any new interesting ideas are generated.

Strengths and weaknesses

We can extend this technique in similar ways to those in which we extended the pros and cons technique. If we assume that ‘all strengths are weaknesses and all weaknesses are strengths’, we can take each item in the Plus column and map it to three, possibly new, items in the Minus column, as well as some items in the Interesting column. We can then do the same with the Minus and Interesting columns.

Making your decision

You can evaluate your decision in the same way that you would evaluate the results of the pros and cons technique; however, the biggest strength of this technique is the fact that you have generated a number of items in the Interesting column. These may well give you some really good indications as to the best decision to make.