How to Evaluate Your Creative Idea Before Presenting It to the Sharks

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn.” —Charles Brower

Great White Shark

At work, at home, or while volunteering, we are faced with presenting our creative solutions to sharks: spouse, boss, leader, children, city council, whomever. Many times our solutions are rejected, because, well, they’re bad ideas.

We can avoid championing bad ideas by putting our solutions through a checklist before selling them to the sharks. Answers to the following questions will determine whether your creative solution has merit.


Creative Solution Checklist


Image courtesy of Pong at
Image courtesy of Pong at

Nature of the Solution – the description of the idea.

  • Is the idea simple?
  • Can you summarize the idea in a few clear and concise sentences?
  • Will the idea solve the problem completely or partially?
  • Is the idea a permanent or temporary solution?
  • Is the solution affordable?

Reception of the Solution – the way others will react to the idea.

  • Could average people on the street accept it?
  • Has a co-worker said he wishes he’d thought of the idea?
  • Will the people involved be able to accept the changes the solution requires?
  • Would God be pleased?

Results of the Solution – the noble value of the idea.

  • Will the solution increase production or efficiency?
  • Will the solution improve quality of life or quality of a product?
  • Will the solution improve safety, working conditions, or work methods?
  • Will the solution prevent waste, eliminate unnecessary work, conserve materials or reduce costs?



In building our dream home, I decided to incorporate arched interior transoms over two doors like I saw in a magazine. The transoms had glass and arched patterned wrought iron insets. The builder asked several times if I really wanted them. My husband, John, didn’t care if they were installed or not.

Problem: If I wanted the arched transoms, it was up to me to obtain the wrought iron insets and the half-circle glass windows.

mage courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at
mage courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Solution 1: I found online one pre-made wrought iron inset with an unappealing design. Then I discovered a company that would have to custom create the design, and the insets would cost $500 each, plus shipping. And this didn’t include the glass or our builder’s labor to form the arched frames. Total: $1,000+.

If I’d used the checklist to evaluate this solution before taking it to the sharks (husband and builder), it would have failed. It had become complicated. The cost didn’t fit into the budget. I believed the average man on the street would think the transoms were exorbitant for a bit of style. The expensive transoms had no noble use, other than they charmed me. Bad idea.

I was ready to give up the transoms.

Solution 2: John and I perused an outlet store with all kinds of home decorative items. On one aisle, we discovered patterned wrought iron half-circles the exact size we needed for $30 each. The only problem was the fleurs de lis soldered to their centers.

TransomsExcited, I summarized my solution in two sentences to shark John: “Buy these insets and remove the fleurs de lis. Purchase a round glass tabletop with the same diameter, which I saw for $60, and have it cut in half for the window sections. Total: $120.

This solution was simple. The cost was reasonable. The noble use, at that cost, was improving the artistic design of the house. John went for it.

John removed the fleurs de lis. The builder had the glass tabletop I bought cut in half for $5. John and I like how the transoms turned out.


What method do you use before you present a creative idea to your sharks?

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How to Be More Versatile at Brainstorming

“Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” —George S. Patton

Image courtesy of tungphoto at
Image courtesy of tungphoto at

Sometimes our brainstorming technique gets stale, and we need a fresh method to brainstorm a project. In a past post, I showed how to use a simplified form of mind mapping. If you haven’t used mind mapping see How to Plan an Engaging Activity in Less Than 10 Minutes. If you’re already familiar with mind mapping, here’s another brainstorming technique I call the Challenge Method.

The Challenge Method is based on a simple game I’ve played over the years.

SquiggleSomeone draws a curvy line and challenges me to make something recognizable from the squiggle. The challenge and the crude drawing spark my interest. I study it and see the craggy nose of a fisherman. But wait. It also resembles the weathered head of a tortoise. I rotate the scrawl, and the possibilities churn. Inspired, I complete the drawing of an anthill with masses of ants streaming in and out of it. I’ve triumphed.


4 Steps to the Challenge Method of Brainstorming 

Step 1: Receive the spark.

Step 2: Accept the challenge.

Step 3: Explore the possibilities.

Step 4: Build the product.

Four of the six windowed sides.

Examples best describe the 4 steps.

Example 1: After my husband and I bought a hill overlooking a valley and the mountains in Southwestern Virginia, I perused thousands of floor plans online. Thousands. None were adequate to see our 270-degree view.

Finally, John said, “Get me a piece of graph paper.” He constructed an octagon on the paper and challenged us to design the rest of the house, extending it from two of the octagon’s adjacent sides. We explored many configurations, even after we turned our plan over to a draftsman. Today, we live in our dream home, enjoying our spectacular 270-degree view from our octagonal great room.


Bride and Groom, Just Married, Driving Away in CarExample 2: A hypothetical pastor sat in a restaurant booth next to two newlyweds. He overheard the young man say, “You are my morning star. I wake up early to watch you rise. I can’t wait to be with you all day.” The husband’s words wowed the pastor. He challenged himself to use this sentiment in a sermon. A sermon on anticipation? A sermon on adoring love?

But wait. Jesus is called the Morning Star in the Bible in Revelation 22:16. The pastor writes his sermon. He shares the story of the newlyweds and equates it to loving Jesus so much we rise early to read His words in the Bible and spend the day with Him.

Example 3: I enjoy thinking up hooks for the first line of possible stories. Here’s one: With the many interruptions to her already loaded schedule, when would she find the time to kill Rita?

Image courtesy of Pong at
Image courtesy of Pong at

Unlike many of my first lines, this one piqued my interest. I challenged myself to create a story starting with this line. It, indeed, kindled several ideas. Christian Fiction Online Magazine published my short story that the Challenge-Method generated. No plot spoilers here. You can read my story free at Plotting Murder.

Stay alert for the sparks all around you. They’re often unlikely items. Years ago, the target sign on a popular department store caught my eye. I wrote a short story about a father who discovers his troubled son with a bulls-eye taped over his heart and fears he’s contemplating suicide. So, keep your creative feelers twitching in every direction.

What trigger challenged you to the possibilities of a successful project?

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5 Tips from Creative Geniuses on How to Love


On this Valentines Day, enjoy the tips on how to love, gleaned from the thoughts of creative geniuses.

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.” —Vincent Van Gogh—Dutch painter (1853-1890)

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at
Image courtesy of Simon Howden at

Tip 1: Love others, and experience artistic beauty. I thought creative geniuses submerged themselves deep in their work and never thought about brotherly love. Van Gogh cutting off a piece of his ear and giving it to a prostitute was morbid. Yet Van Gogh also spoke this tender quote. For me, it’s love God and others.


“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”  —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe —German poet/writer/scientist/ natural philosopher (1749-1832)

MP900443864Tip 2: Love well, and refine character. Considering his long list of occupations, Goethe may have referred to the impact of these endeavors on his life. Or he may have offered it as a lesson learned from his love life. He seems to have loved several women over his life, which also may have shaped him. Some inspired his works. Others rejected him. An engagement was ended. He married his mistress of little education after eighteen years and the birth of several children.


“In our life there is a single colour, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the colour of love.”  —Marc Chagall—Russian artist, (1887-1985)

MP900432886Tip 3: Love vibrantly, and live a meaningful life. Color dominated Chagall’s works. It’s probably natural he would view what he believed about love through color. Chagall married his fiancée after a twelve-year engagement.


The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.”  —Charles Dickens—English novelist (1812-1870)

DickensTip 4: Love first, and then create. At age twelve for three years, Dickens lived in the world of the working poor in appalling conditions. He never forgot his plight and in loving sympathy for children of the poor, created characters like Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. He was known as a spokesman for the poor and oppressed. His quote reminds me of the verses in the Bible that tell us God, our creator, knew and loved us before we existed.


“To love is not to look at one another, but to look together in the same direction.”  —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry —French novelist/poet/aviator (1900-1944)

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at
Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at

Tip 5: Love unity, and together, look to the future. I wonder if Saint-Exupéry learned the lesson he espouses from his failed relationships. His fiancée’s family objected to his flying, and he took a desk job, only returning to aviation after the engagement dissolved. His marriage to a widow, his muse and his source of torment, was a volatile marriage.


Happy Valentines Day. What thoughts on love can you add?

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