Managing yourself creatively

How to Judge an Idea?

At this point you are ready to render a verdict on the value of your idea. There are at least four questions about your brainstorm that you should be prepared to answer.


In short, will it work? If it is designed to save time in a particular sequence of activities, for example, does it actually save time? Enough to make it a meaningful contribution? Since most ideas flunk this first test, be brutally honest with yourself. If the answer is no, don’t give up. Keep working to improve the idea.


Some ideas are impractical not because they don’t work, but because even though they do, little is to be gained from implementing them. For instance, suppose you invented an aerosol container that was activated by a trigger instead of a button. Even if it worked as well as, but no better than, conventional aerosol containers, what incentive would an aerosol container manufacturer have to switch to your trigger? None so make sure that your idea is better in some way than the idea it is designed to replace.

Some specific recommendations come from the U.S. Navy which, like any big organization, is on a constant alert for new ideas. To separate the wheat from the chaff for further consideration, it employs this ten-point check list which can be used by anyone who wants to know whether his latest brainstorm has possibilities. Try it on your very next bright idea.

  • Will it increase production or improve quality?
  • Is it a more efficient utilization of manpower?
  • Does it improve methods of operation, maintenance or construction?
  • Does it improve safety?
  • Does it cut down on waste?
  • Does it eliminate unnecessary work?
  • Does it improve present office methods?
  • Will it improve working conditions?

If your idea rates at least one yes, then you probably have a constructive idea, according to the U.S. Navy.


Anybody can become a millionaire virtually overnight by coming up with an inexpensive process for extracting gold from the oceans of the world. That is no secret, for it is common knowledge that our seas contain millions of tons of gold. Unfortunately, no one has yet been able to devise a method of extraction that is less expensive than the value of the gold reclaimed. Since the world price of gold is currently $35.01 for every ounce extracted, your idea would have no intrinsic value because you would lose a penny on every ounce “mined”. And what is true of taking gold from the sea is true of any idea. If its cost outweighs its benefits, it is not a good idea – yet. (This does not mean that it cannot be improved through additional work and thought.


Because timing is often an important factor in the efficacy of an idea, examine your idea carefully from this point of view. There would, for example, be little to be gained from an improved buggy whip in this age of 350-horsepower automobiles. In judging your idea, therefore, consider its timing. Are all the conditions affecting its practicality present right now? Is the idea too late? Too early? Does it rest on assumptions about the future? In short, remember that every idea must be operable in terms of the time within which it is to be implemented.

If your idea passes these four tests, you may safely judge it practical.