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P.P.C.O. (Pluses, Potentials, Challenges, Overcomes)

  • Use when evaluating an idea/solution/proposal.

  • This tool uses both Divergence and Convergence.

  • Can be used as a stand alone tool.

What and Why?

Pluses, potentials, challenges, and overcomes can be used as a framework for evaluating ideas because they provide a comprehensive analysis of the concept or proposal at hand.

  1. Pluses allow us to identify the positive aspects and advantages of the idea, helping us understand its strengths and benefits. This helps in determining its potential value and appeal.

  2. Potentials help us assess the possibilities and opportunities that the idea holds. By identifying the potential for growth, success, or innovation, we can gauge the idea's long-term viability and its capacity to deliver desired outcomes.

  3. Challenges help us identify potential obstacles or drawbacks associated with the idea. By understanding the challenges, we can assess the risks and potential limitations that may impact its implementation or success.

  4. Overcomes help us devise strategies or solutions to address the challenges identified. By finding ways to overcome obstacles, we can determine the feasibility and practicality of the idea, and assess the effort required to make it successful.

Evaluating ideas using pluses, potentials, challenges, and overcomes allows for a holistic assessment that considers both the positive and negative aspects, as well as the potential for success and the strategies to overcome obstacles. This approach helps in making informed decisions and developing effective plans for implementation.


Use this tool if you want to:

  • Conduct a comprehensive evaluation for a thorough assessment of ideas that provides a holistic understanding of their feasibility and potential.

  • Identify and assess potential challenges or obstacles that may arise during the implementation of an idea and engage in proactive risk management and the development of strategies to mitigate or overcome those challenges.

  • Optimize resources by ensuring they are focused on areas with the highest potential for success and impact.

  • Increase the likelihood of success by identifying and addressing critical factors that can impact the success of an idea, improving the overall chances of achieving desired outcomes.


Facilitation Elements

A. Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation (20 minutes for set up and debrief at end + 15 minutes per team + 20 minutes for synthesizing evaluation)

5 mins

NOTE: Use this tool when you have an idea/ solution statement/ proposed plan or approach to evaluate and refine

  1. Ask the group how often they have shared an idea that they have invested time and energy in creating to someone else and the person they are presenting to points out all the flaws in their idea?

  2. Ask them how that kind of feedback makes them feel?

  3. Propose that we are going to try a different approach to evaluation.

  4. Introduce the framework for PPCO:

    • First we list what we like about the idea using “I like…”: Pluses.

    • Secondly we list what we see as additional builds on/ possibilities in the idea using “It might/ We might…”: Potentials.

    • Then we list what we see as problems or concerns. We frame these concerns as a question using “How might we…?”: Challenges.

    • And finally - (if we have any) suggestions for how to address the challenges identified using “What if…”: Overcomes.

10 mins

Warm up

  1. Share an improbable invention with the group. (Suggestion: Use the idea of a cellphone in a shoe. Make it fun - claim that you have had this brilliant idea because you always lose your cellphone as you tend to leave it lying around. Use an image you can find on Google or build a prototype out of paper and show it to the group).

  2. In plenary invite the group to offer feedback verbally using the PPCO framework.

    1. First ask them to share what they like about the idea. Push them to list at least 5 pluses.

    2. Then ask them what potentials they see in the concept. If they forget to use “It might…/ We might…” - rephrase their responses to include that statement starter. Ask them “What else becomes possible if this idea works?” Push for at least 5 potentials.

    3. As you move on to concerns, remind them that as they identify potential concerns with the idea - they need to phrase the problem as a question using “How might we…?” (HMW) If they forget to use the HMW - ask them to rephrase the problem as a challenge. Stop at 3 challenges and move on to Overcomes.

    4. Finally ask the group if they can think of ways to address some of the challenges they raised. Ask them to share those Overcomes using “What if…” as the statement starter.

~15 mins per team

(Divergence)

  1. Distribute Post-its and Sharpie markers to the group.

  2. Post visibly a reminder of the prompts for PPCO:

    1. Pluses: “I like…”

    2. Potentials: “It might…/ We might…”

    3. Challenges: “How might we…?”

    4. Overcomes: “What if…”

  3. Invite the presenter of an idea/ proposal/ solution statement to share their offer with the group. Ask them to provide enough details so that the feedback they receive is helpful and specific. (Generally between 5-7 minutes for a presentation).

  4. Instruct the group to listen carefully to the presentation and note down any feedback that comes to mind on the post-its provided.

  5. Remind them to use the prompts posted for the type of feedback they are generating.

  6. Also remind them to write only one piece of feedback on each post-it.

  7. Ask them to save the post-its in a pile.

  8. Allow for an extra 5 minutes after the presentation is done for people to finish writing their post-it notes.

  9. Collect all the post-it notes and give them to the team that presented their idea.

Repeat this process for each team that has an idea to share.


NOTE: If multiple teams are presenting ideas - collect all post-it notes at the end of each round - and save them in a pile for each team. Do not share them with the teams until all presentations are done.


20 mins

(Convergence)

  1. When all teams have finished presenting, give each team their pile of feedback post-its.

  2. Invite them to sort the feedback into the categories of Pluses, Potentials, Challenges and Overcomes.

  3. Invite them to use this feedback to refine their idea. Offer them these suggestions:

    • Pluses: Find ways to leverage the pluses that were highlighted in the feedback.

    • Potentials: Look for ways in which they might create future opportunities for any suggested builds or consider how they might harness the potentials as they deploy their idea.

    • Challenges: Consider which challenges are “deal breakers” and must be addressed if this idea is to have a chance at success. Brainstorm ways to work around these challenges

    • Overcomes: Weave in suggested strategies to address the challenges that are deal breakers.

4 mins

Debrief the activity. Invite the group to share what they experienced as a result of using this tool.

  • What did you observe or experience as a result of using this tool?

  • What insights did you have?

  • Can you see yourself using this tool? How?

B. How Groups Are Configured

  • While in theory this activity can be done with a group of any size - each team presenting an idea should be limited to 5-7 people.

  • It can be tiring to listen to multiple presentations and to continually offer feedback. We suggest that there should be a planned break after three presentations. With no more than 6-8 presentations in total.

C. How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

  • Unlimited number of groups

  • Seating for small groups of 5-7

  • Post-its

  • Pens

  • Flip chart paper may be needed for group presentations and for groups to organize feedback post-its

  • A Poster or slide with:

    • Pluses: “I like…”

    • Potentials: “It might…/ We might…”

    • Challenges: “How might we…?”

    • Overcomes: “What if…”

Tips and Watchouts

  • Encourage participants to pay attention and actively listen to what others are presenting and actively listen and be generous in giving feedback.

  • Remind participants to be as specific as possible so that the feedback is anchored in details that are helpful.

  • Check often that the group is generating feedback in each category and not simply skipping ahead to challenges.

  • Draw attention to the statement starters for each type of feedback - encourage the group to use the appropriate language.

  • Don’t underestimate the cognitive load of providing feedback. If the quality and quantity of feedback is diminishing for later presentations - call for a break. It is important that everyone gets the benefit of the group's best efforts.

  • An additional step might be to have the teams share back their refined ideas/ solutions or presentations. This could be done asynchronously as teams could create digital presentations that could be shared with others.

  • Don't overlook the importance of reflection and evaluation after completing the process. Take time to assess the effectiveness of the tool, identify any shortcomings, and learn from the experience to improve future iteration.

Informal Application

  1. When someone shares an idea or a proposal with you - make it a practice to offer feedback using the Pluses, Potentials, Challenges, and Overcomes as a way to structure your response.

  2. Use this to offer feedback to students and peers.

  3. Invite others to use this framework when you are asking them for feedback.


Attribution:

The PPCO technique was developed by Diane Foucar-Szocki, Bill Shepard and Roger Firestien in 1982.

Vehar, J. Miller, B. Firestien, R. (1999). Creativity Unbound: An Introduction to Creative Problem-Solving. Williamsville, NY. Innovation Systems Group.

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