Advantages, limitations, and unique qualities

Advantages, limitations, and unique qualities (described in Isaksen, Dorval and Treffinger, 1994) is a simple, constructive evaluation technique to apply to any potentially interesting business ideas. It can also be used during idea generation to provoke more ideas and is a useful exercise in switching between mental ‘sets’.

  1. Select the idea you want to consider.
  2. Brainstorm all the advantages you can imagine for it: everything that makes it attractive or appealing, all its potentials. This is pure enthusiasm – so ‘Yes, but … ’ is not allowed!
  3. Now switch mental sets to brainstorm all possible limitations – flaws, weaknesses, trouble spots.
  4. Finally, switch again to find all the qualities of this idea that are new, unique or unusual, or any unique connections it suggests. What is special about this idea or the possibilities it suggests?

A thorough, evaluative use of this process could take anything from a few minutes to as much as an hour per idea, so it is normally reserved for a shortlist of pre-selected ideas, perhaps just the final two or three that justify this investment of time.

However, if it is used for idea generation as a way of building on other ideas, you would use it very briefly, both to avoid disrupting the flow and to avoid the ‘limitations’ phase creating a negative atmosphere. In effect, you are simply asking ‘Can I think of an advantage/limitation/unique feature of this idea that can suggest more ideas to me?’

See also: closely related techniques: Pluses, potentials and concerns, and Receptivity to ideas.

Isaksen, S.G., Dorval,K.B. and Treffinger, D.J. (1994) Creative Approaches to Problem Solving, Dubuque, Iowa, Kendall/Hunt, pp. 50–2, 352

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