Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.” With all due respect, he was wrong.
Imagination isn’t everything. Judgement – imagination’s partner in crime – is a very powerful and influential character; and we need to get a lot better at using it.
We could say, “Judgement is almost everything. It is the gatekeeper of life’s coming attractions.” Unfortunately it's not sexy like imagination, which is what artists explore and geniuses have; judgement is employed by executive boards, judges and opinionated people.
Imagination can unlock new possibilities for an organisation, create new products, and solve all sorts of problems, but without judgement, you're dreaming. If you become incredible at separating dreams from great ideas – it will set you free.
Here are a few suggestions on how to make good judgements:
Give clear direction and set clear criteria
Make sure that you know what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to critique the ideas before you start brainstorming. What’s the goal? How does it help with the organisation’s strategic plan? This should be written down and crystal clear.
Use a two-step process
Seeing judgement as a single step is a mistake because you risk eliminating seedling ideas prematurely. The first step should be judging-to-strengthen; this is where you separate exciting ideas from the ‘pile’ and identify their weaknesses and strengths, with the goal of making them stronger. The second step is when you review the final ideas; judge-to-strengthen then judge-to-decide.
Avoid the allure of accepting an easy answer
It’s human nature to want to find a simple solution when presented with multiple options. However, if you stop judging your ideas because an easy answer presents itself, you could miss out on uncovering an even better one.
Approach judging with a positive frame of mind
It’s important to get your frame of mind right when judging ideas. Focus on finding and strengthening the great ideas, instead of culling the ‘poor’ ideas. It’s easy to cull great ideas based on minor flaws, and that could be a missed opportunity.
See the world through the eyes of others
The way you and your team see the world will greatly affect which ideas get through. Multiple perspectives help, so include people from outside the organisation to combat organisational blindness. Don’t forget one of the most important perspectives is that of the client.
Good luck. And may judgement be with you.
Jason Clapperton is director of strategy at Running with Scissors.