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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.


The third phase of creativity: inspiration – that lightbulb moment!

Inspiration is part of a process.

In an earlier post, I have promised to say something about each of the seven stages of creativity. The one most of us think of first is inspiration. Although it is an essential part of the process, it is of little use without all the others, beginning with preparation, as I have explained in another post. 

Of course, this lightbulb moment can occur at any stage of the process, but it is unlikely to do you any good if you haven’t identified the problem properly through preparation. You also usually need to have allowed time for your ideas to incubate, before the inspiration comes. Don’t try too hard to force it.  On the other hand, it is unwise to rush to the next phase until you have experienced at least one blinding flash of inspiration to set you on your way.

Where does inspiration come from?

It is hard to say. We are all different. It is, however, not the logical result of your reasoning. Not only. It is the bit that comes out of the blue. Often as a complete, or near-complete, idea.

How can you encourage inspiration?

Sometimes it just comes. But you can help inspiration to come. Usually it does not happen when you are in the office, working on your project, because you want your analytical brain to take a back seat and let your creative imagination take over for a while.

Inspiration often comes when you are relaxed, say in the shower or in the bath. Being close to nature often helps. This does not have to mean going to the jungle or climbing a mountain. A park or your own garden will do.  When you are surrounded by green, even green wallpaper, you may be more creative.

A man with a magnifying glass, looking for inspiration. That's the wrong way!
A man with a magnifying glass, looking for inspiration. That’s the wrong way!
Does physical exercise invite inspiration?

Another way to relax and put the creative side of your brain into gear, while turning off, or down, your analytical side, is to take some gentle exercise. That can energise you. Not excessive exercise. You won’t think of anything useful, or think at all, if you’re exhausted. What you do should depends on yourself: your preferences and your state of fitness. For some an hour’s jog is fine. For me, it would be too much. A half-hour’s brisk walk is about right. A swim, a bike-ride, a session in the gym, whatever. Just do what comes easily: don’t tire yourself out.

This does not mean you shouldn’t do hard workouts or long runs. Just don’t expect many good ideas to come to you when you’re collapsed in a heap gasping for breath.

Capture your inspiration!

Don’t waste it. Always have a notebook handy. And a pen. Or be modern and use the notebook facility or your phone or tablet, so long as you can access it quickly. The note needs to be only as long and as detailed as you need, in order to recall what that blinding flash was about.

Good luck! Be inspired!

How would you manage an allegation of sexual misconduct in your business?

Why is sexual misconduct an issue for you or your business?

The media have been full of allegations of sexual misconduct  concerning people in politics, sport and the movies, but so far they have left the business community alone. However, some have alleged that this sort of thing goes on in all areas of life. I tend to think that is the case. Without making the headlines, people make claims for sexual harassment in the workplace every week. Perhaps nobody has ever made such a claim against anyone in your business. If so, ask yourself is it a result of  luck or good management?

What do I consider to be the sexual harassment risk?

There are two risks. It is important to be aware of both and not to  focus on either to the exclusion of the other.

Firstly, there is the risk that someone might bring a claim or a complaint against the business or an individual in it. It may or may not be justified. There are several aspects to this risk:

  1. Damage to the firm’s reputation.
  2. Compensation to the complainant.
  3. Diversion of resources into investigating and processing the matter.

Secondly, there is the risk that people will commit acts of sexual misconduct with impunity. This happens if there is a culture where people seem to regard it as acceptable and where victims are afraid to complain. In such places, some people usually appear to be above the law.

This can result in:

  1. High staff turnover.
  2. Stress and strained relationships.
  3. The failure to promote or retain good employees who fail to cooperate or fit in with the culture.
Sexual harassment is a risk that can be managed

As with any other risk, there is no guarantee that any controls will work all the time, but you can take measures to reduce the risk and not just leave it to  chance.

  1. Have a clear policy setting out what is and what is not  acceptable.
  2. Ensure you communicate it.
  3. Ensure you enforce it and challenge remarks or actions you consider unacceptable, before they lead to complaints.
  4. Have arrangements for people to complain to an independent person without fear of recrimination.
  5. Have a procedure for investigating and adjudicating complaints.
  6. Maintain records of complaints, how they were handled and what was the outcome.
Allegations of sexual misconduct must be properly investigated
Allegations of sexual misconduct must be properly investigated

A sound policy and procedure should give everyone confidence due to certainty and it should deter bad behaviour and also discourage trivial complaints. If in doubt, consult an HR professional or other expert in this field.

Finally, remember that sexual harassment often goes with a culture of bullying and intimidation. It is especially prevalent when a few people have apparently complete power over others. A lack of transparency will make things worse.


Is it time to restart my Newsletters? I need feedback.

What’s happened to my newsletters?

It has been months since I last sent out any newsletters, for various reasons. It has been an interesting time for me, writing, editing, blogging, and having work done on my house. I am still working on two sequels to Accounting for Murder, Double Entry and am trying to produce a book on Risk Management, in response to an enquiry I received via Linkedin from an American academic publisher.  Now I think it’s time to restart communicating with readers, but perhaps I could improve my output. What do you think? I need some feedback. If you were never on my mailing list, you can still have your say. I would particularly like to hear from my Twitter followers. How can I serve them better?

What do you think of my newsletters?
  • Would you like to be on the mailing list?
  • How frequently should I send them out?
  • Any comments on the format?
  • What sort of articles do you like? Risk Management, claims, writing fiction, religion, general?
How often shall I write newsletters to you?
How often shall I write newsletters?


How will your answers affect the newsletters?

Depending on the responses, I am considering separating readers into two lists. I would produce two newsletters, not necessarily at the same time or with the same frequency, each with a different emphasis. Unless I discover that most people prefer the same things.

You can reply on the contact form on either of my websites, or just send me an e-mail.

Are you wasting money on managing risk?

You don’t want to waste money, do you? Perhaps you think Risk Management is one way you are not wasting any, especially if you are not using the services of a Risk Management consultant. Of course, you could be right, but, before you pat yourself on the back, just ask yourself how much you are spending on managing risks now. It might be more than you think. It will not be Nil.

Show me the money!

Here’s an article that may help you see how much risk management is costing you now. You could be in for a surprise, or several.

Yes, you could be spending more than you need on managing the risks in your business. A lot of people are.


Am I cheap or just economical?

You can actually more money than you spend on my fee and I will help you get the best value for money from everything you are spending on managing risks, by targeting that expenditure more effectively.

Is there a guarantee?

  • I will guarantee to carry out whatever programme we agree.
  • I will guarantee commitment and confidentiality.
  • I will guarantee that there will be no hidden charges.
  • I will guarantee that I will work within the timeframe we agree.

However, I cannot guarantee savings, until I have studied your business. If I could, I would call my business, JHM Certainty Management.

So I have to ask you to take a risk. Get in touch. I guarantee that the initial consultation will cost you NOTHING. That really is a certainty!

Will growth wreck your business?

Is growth part of your business plan for this year or next?

If so, you probably think it is likely to save your business, not wreck it. You probably don’t want to hear from negative people. Neither do I, but, sadly, a lot of businesses get into trouble when they experience growth, especially if it’s rapid.

Am I saying it is better to be static?

No!  I want to see your business grow, but I want it to continue growing successfully, not to be destroyed by one of the many landmines awaiting you. By that, I mean the risks that will appear, or change, as the business changes.

I have written about the seven landmines of growth. If you want your business to grow, and thrive, I hope you will read the article and find something in it that will keep you from stepping on a landmine.


Risk Dice

Are you ready?

Ask yourself how well prepared your business is for growth. Why not have a word with me? Most people find a meeting with me is better than stepping on a landmine. And it’s free.

Can you be asking the wrong question?

One question I am often asked is, “What risks do you manage?”

If that is the question on your mind, you are right to ask it. I will always try to answer any question from a client or potential client, or anyone else. It is obviously not a silly question. So how can it be wrong?

Risk Dice

First, you may wish to ask yourself what types of risk are important in your business. I have written about the twelve categories of risks threatening most businesses here

Can I deal with all of them? You may well ask!

Nobody an be an expert in everything. The way I could help you, if you would let me, would be to help you set up a process, so you could identify, analyse and control the risks in and around your business. I could also start you off on the right track, by carrying out a survey of your activities and asking questions about the ways in which the risks we observed are being managed.

So, what else can I do for you?

I might go into some of your risks in depth. I might direct you to someone who is an expert in a particular area. Or I might leave you to find the answers once we have identified the questions.

This brings us to another question and another article I have written to help you answer it.

It is a cliche, but true, that if you want to get to the right answer, you have to ask the right question. Ask it! Then ask me.

Can we overreact to terrorism?

What do I mean, overreact? Of course, it is difficult to imagine anyone not wanting to do everything possible to reduce the risk of another terrorist incident. Could anyone be said to overreact? Does anyone not care?

We keep hearing about the need to get tough on terrorism. Does anybody think we need to get soft on it? Mostly, such statements are not accompanied by specific proposals.

There is certainly a risk, as many people have said, that we could overreact:

  • by introducing ill-thought-out measures,
  • by throwing money at the problem,
  • by taking steps that alienate moderate Moslems and lose their cooperation and goodwill,
  • or by blaming the police or MI5 rather than trying to learn the right lessons.

However, I think there is another risk we need to consider.

The risk of giving the problem too much attention!

I have written before about the need to use statistics carefully, in blogs and in my book How to Avoid Being Misled by Statistics, go to

Think about these questions:

  • How many people have been killed or wounded by terrorist acts in this country this year? In the last ten years?
  • How many have been killed by serial killers? Gangland killings? Random acts of violence?
  • How many people are killed each year in traffic accidents,? In avoidable accidents at work?

We do not hear of demands for increased resources to protect us from killers of all kinds. We do not hear of draconian solutions being proposed to curtail our freedoms or to ensure that the Road Traffic Acts or Health and Safety Acts are enforced rigorously.

Is there not a risk that we can concentrate too much on one particular risk to the detriment of efforts to deal with many other kinds?

I am not complacent, merely asking for a sense of proportion.

What about you?

How are you prone to overreact?

  • What risk in your business do you concentrate on managing?
  • What others might you be ignoring?
  • When did you last have a Risk Management review, whether conducted by yourself or someone independent?

Is it time to  look at it again? (It’s not for the first time, surely?)

Have a chat with me, if you’re not sure. It won’t cost you anything just to talk about it.

Risk Dice


How easily could your business be grounded?

Everyone is being critical of BA as they have grounded all their planes over the Bank Holiday Weekend. Although nobody seems to know exactly what went wrong, and investigations are ongoing, here are a few questions which might be relevant to your business too, whatever its size or nature.

What is crucial to your business? It seems a power outage caused a vital computer system to fail, affecting all BA’s operations. How could your business be grounded? Is there one thing that your business depends on? A system, a machine, a building, or even a person?

  • Can you identify it and evaluate its robustness?
  • What could make it fail? How likely is it? What can you do to prevent that?
  • Do you have back up? Is anything or anyone indispensable? A standby generator would surely have been a good investment.

JHM Data Protection

Do you have a Plan B? What should you, and each of your employees, do in the event of a major failure of a crucial system, machine or whatever? Is it total shutdown or can you carry on at a reduced level of output?

How will clients or the public react? BA seem to have done nothing to communicate with travellers: to inform, to reassure, or to offer any sort of help. The damage to their reputation could turn out to be the most expensive part of this catastrophe.

What will it cost? Whenever you assess risks, you will obviously consider the cost of any risk control measures you are to consider. Do you also consider the cost of failing to implement such controls?

Before you condemn BA, ask yourself whether you would do any better. If you are worried, have a word with me. What have you got to lose? Don’t become grounded.

Risk Dice