How To Evaluate And Improve A Creative Idea At Work

Do you want a simple and constructive procedure to evaluate and analyze creative ideas? A procedure that doesn’t squelch enthusiasm, or lead to hurt feeling, or increases resentment that results in eventual revenge? I mean a quick & easy procedure to get a friendly discussion started after someone presents a serious creative idea.

Many such procedures exist. This one, titled ‘Like-Improve Analysis,’ hits the mark and does a lot more for you. More on its multiple uses later.

To make it work: Draw a line down the center of a large flip chart on an easel (when working with your team), or down the center of an 8 x 11 inch piece of paper (when working alone). On the top of the left side of the line write: “What I LIKE About This Idea” and on top of the right side of the line write: “What I Want IMPROVED About This Idea.”

Now non-evaluatively list all the things you or your team likes about the idea on the left side of the line, so you won’t change them, and non-evaluatively list on the right side what you want improved to move the idea toward acceptability.

Now check off the 5 most impactful items requiring improvement, then check the top 3, and finally select the most telling item. Then list at least 5 ways that might lead to solid improvement of the idea. Continue working on additional items listed for improvement until the original idea is acceptable or discarded. If acceptable, combine all approaches into one workable approach, and write an action plan (who does what, where, when, how, and why).

Somewhat more logical than the creativity triggers described elsewhere, though still very effective to evaluate and improve ideas without getting into emotion-based brawls, this trigger can lead a team, or an individual working alone, into new unexpected approaches while evaluating an idea.

You can use ‘Like-Improve Analysis’ to improve anything at work. It can analyze and improve a proposal, a stock, a financial endeavor, a political party, a short story, a movie, a TV show, a lecture, a course at school, a game, a politician, a war, a business, a friend, a tax, a law, and just about everything else.

A TRUE STORY: I remember using Like-Improve Analysis with a local small business owner. Under things he wanted to improve, he listed: “Double the monthly gross income from $7,500 to $15,000 per month.” About 7 months later he achieved that goal. Yet, instead of flourishing, he soon went bankrupt; he forget to take into account a huge replacement cost of several large & expensive pieces of equipment; this wiped him out. He should have listed that large expense as an item he wanted to improve.  Thus, learn that Like-Improve Analysis can require a serious & careful approach. Still, you can make it a simple, quick way to evaluate an idea with your team or alone.

A related approach includes ‘Focused Idea Improvement.’ To improve the ideas you create…

1. List the characteristics and properties of the idea.

2. List what’s useful and what you like about the idea.

3. List deficiencies in the idea that need improving.

4. List ways to overcome deficiencies and improve your idea.

5. Recycle the above until the idea shines.

Turn each snag into an opportunity and an advantage.

And checkout my 2016 book: “CREATIVITY FOR UNCREATIVE PEOPLE: How To Be More Creative Than You Think You Are.” CLICK HERE AND HERE.

©2017 by Edward Glassman


Ed Glassman, Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He led scores of problem-solving creativity meetings and creative thinking workshops-seminars for many large and small companies. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

His book:Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here OR HERE.

Another book: R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work” is also available.   CLICK here  OR HERE

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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