This is a part of the Creative Problem Solving Toolkit (2023).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
NOTE: Use this tool when you have an idea/ solution statement/ proposed plan or approach to evaluate and refine
~15 mins per team
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.
Debrief the activity. Invite the group to share what they experienced as a result of using this tool.
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
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.
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.
Use this to offer feedback to students and peers.
Invite others to use this framework when you are asking them for feedback.
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.