PMI (Plus Minus Interesting) – a variation

Purpose: to describe a simple variation in using PMI (Plus Minus Interesting) suitable for smaller and larger groups. Note: PMI is an Edward de Bono thinking tool which Martin Bloxham and I have used since 2009 in our training sessions with Leopold Fellows.

Description: Recently, I facilitated a 90 minute session for the trustees of a UK environmental charity and representatives of the local government authority. The purpose of the session was to consider a proposed commercial development that was likely to be controversial for trustees. The proposal was described in outline by one of the trustees who then invited questions for information. This took 40 minutes.

Then we did a PMI on the proposal with all 14 people in the room seated at tables laid out in a board room style. I stood at the end with a flipchart.

For many of them, this was their first experience of PMI. Not wanting to have to do a demo first, I explained the process and repeated the rules several times as we went. It was important to keep all the information in the group and to keep the process moving. So, I decided to try running PMI as a ‘go-round’ – ie. a process in which we went around the room in order. I continued it until no-one had anything more to contribute. Anyone could pass at any time. We did OPV (identifying which other points of view to consider) after we had done a first run at the ‘Plusses’.  It took approx 25 minutes to complete the PMI. The group then spent 20 minutes time discussing some of the key points identified.

I had never done a PMI as a go-round before and found it worked very well. It allowed everyone to stay in a single group and to see and hear everything. It kept the process moving at a good pace, gave everyone a voice and also gave people time to think up new ideas in response to earlier ones. Most importantly, it helped the people developing the commercial proposal to have a much better understanding of the key issues perceived by the trustees.

The only problem I encountered was the speed of writing I needed to do at the flipchart to keep up – doing my best to use their own words.

Resources used:  Flipchart and pens 

Other comments:  It would be interesting to hear of other’s experience with PMI/OPV – any lessons learned and variations employed. Martin and I never cease to be amazed at how versatile and powerful is this deceptively simple process. Edward de Bono has described it as the most essential of all his thinking tools.