The fourth phase of the creative process: evaluation

What is evaluation?

Evaluation is the fourth of the seven steps of the creative process in business which I have written about. This is the process of deciding whether to commit your time and money to a particular project. Not every idea is worth following up. You have to select or at least prioritise.

A man with a question mark. Wondering how to conduct evaluation?
A man with a question mark. Wondering how to conduct evaluation?
Why is evaluation the third phase?

Until you have done your research, you don’t know enough to make any meaningful evaluation. You also need to have had at least one lightbulb moment so you know what you were planning on doing with all the information you have gathered. And that doesn”t usually come until after you have allowed the ideas time to incubate. You don’t want to leave evaluation much later or you will be in danger of doing too much abortive work.

How should evaluation be conducted?

You need to decide what are the criteria you are going to use. What is important to you? Think of positive and negative factors.  Cost? Availability of resources, including expertise? Lead time? Ultimate benefit? Dealing with an immediate issue? Nonfinancial benefits? Risks?

Three dice. Not the way to manage risks.
Three dice. Not the way to manage risks.

I suggest you list all the criteria you think are important and give each a weighting. Then give each project under consideration a score against each factor, multiply (a x b) and rank by score.

How many projects should you have in your evaluation?

This is a subjective decision. However, if you are doing only one, you can get very frustrated when you hit a brick wall, such as ‘writer’s block’ if the project is a book. I switch to another project and come back to the first one. You also don’t want to come to a halt once the first project is finished. You want to be able to get on with the second one, but not from scratch. I always have several on the go.

Can you have too many projects in your evaluation?

You can spread yourself too thin. You can be doing everything at once and never complete anything. I have heard that some very successful businessmen work on five projects, with another twenty or so in reserve. This means each project is at a different phase most of the time, so if you are fed up with, say, research, you can go to a project that is in a different phase. That keeps you fresh.

Remember, if you need help with evaluation, have a chat. I may be able to help you. 

The second phase of the creative process: incubation

Why do ideas need incubation?

Incubation is the time when the mind works behind the scenes. A lot of your best work is actually done when you are not consciously doing it! Ideas seem to sort themselves out. Perspective develops. You can suddenly see why something was a bad idea, or a good one, and you spot the gaps that need filling.

A man with a question mark, needing to give his ideas time for incubation.
A man with a question mark, needing to give his ideas time for incubation.
Why is incubation the second phase in the process?

Until you have done your preparation, as explained previously, you won’t have anything to incubate. It needs to continue until you’ve had at least some inspiration. But inspiration based on the sound basis of knowledge gained in preparation and allowed time for ideas to incubate. The other phases will work much better if you’ve let the first ones take place in the right order.

How can you forget about your project to allow incubation?

I know it is difficult but it is best to leave the project alone and work on another for a while. I’ve always got several books in my head and at least some partly on paper, so I can switch easily. It helps. Don’t try to force it. This may take only a day or two or it may take weeks. It depends on your makeup and on the problem or project in question. Anyway, it will be worth taking the time the process needs if you are to find a creative solution.