PMI Thinking Tool - Plus Minus Interesting


PMI Tool Description:

PMI Stands for Plus, Minus, and Interesting. When a poor thinker is asked to explore an idea or topic to write an essay, he/she writes the opinion first, and they try to support the opinion throughout the essay. There is no exploration on the subject because of the previously formed false opinion on that topic. I call it a false opinion because poor thinkers allow opinions and beliefs to form based on their first impression without careful exploration or evaluation of the subject. This tool protects you from forming false opinions by helping you to explore and evaluate an idea before attitudes and beliefs are formed.

Information -> Impression -> Opinion

Information -> Exploration -> Evaluation -> Opinion

When an average thinker is asked to explore a topic, she/he tend to think about the topic and come up with the list of points related to the topic. Then we try to group these points into Plus and Minus to come to a conclusion. During exploration of the topic, our thoughts move in many directions without focus leading to poor exploration and evaluation. This tool, sets the direction for our thinking, thereby improving the accuracy of the evaluation.

How To Use PMI Tool

PMI tool directs your attention towards one direction such that your mind taps most of the relevant information from your memory. First, look in the Plus direction and note down what you think(ignore and change your direction when you get any Minus points about the topic). Then, look specifically in the Minus direction and note down what you think. Finally, look in the Interesting direction. Interesting Points are comments, observations, ideas, etc. based on your feelings about the topic.

To evaluate the statement or topic, the scoring system is used on all the points. All Plus points get 0 to +5 points. All Minus points get 0 to -5 points. All Interesting points can vary from -5 to +5. After assigning scores, we can add up the score to find out the overall score. Based on the overall score we can decide our course of action.

By employing PMI Tool, your judgments will be based on the value of the idea rather than your emotions and gut feeling at that time.

Tips for using PMI tool:

  1. First, explore in Plus direction before moving on to Minus direction. It is psychologically difficult to think about positive points after exploring negative points of the topic.
  2. Doing PMI is not listing pros and cons as judgment intervenes exploration. When you judge whether the point is positive or negative, you are not using this tool effectively.
  3. Set fixed time duration for thinking in each direction.

When To Apply PMI Tool:

  1. To Explore Topic
  2. To Evaluate an Idea individually or group.
  3. When you have to decide on major turning points in your life such as new school, new job, starting business, etc
  4. Before dismissing someone’s suggestion
  5. Before forming opinion about important people in life
  6. Turn emotional meetings with prejudice into an exploration of the subject.
  7. Ask People who always play Devil’s advocate to do PMI.
  8. After teaching a topic, teachers can use PMI to know how well the student understood the topic.

PMI Tool Usage Example:

Topic: Don’t Allow Cars Inside the City

Plus Points:

  1. Shorter commutation time.(+2)
  2. Economical as public and group transport systems will be cheaper. (+2)
  3. Reduces accidents. (+3)
  4. Clean Air. (+4)
  5. Reduces carbon emissions and reduces climatic change.(+3)
  6. Improves health - Walk from bus/train stations to office or schools. (+2)
  7. Increases Discipline and Punctuality as train/bus miss may lead to loss of pay.(+1)

Minus Points:

  1. Need to wait in the queue to board bus/train. (-1)
  2. Important places in the city are not connected through public transports. (-2)
  3. Difficult to reach the hospital in case of emergency. (-3)
  4. Inconvenience for old people and kids during over crowded time.(-2)
  5. Cannot be punctual for appointments as we are more dependent on public services.(-1)

Interesting Points:

  1. A chance to meet and visit different types of people.(+1)
  2. Rich will suffer along with Poor. (0)
  3. Shopping Center sales will come down as it will be difficult for people to carry the goods in public transportation. (0)
  4. Online shopping and door delivery will increase. (0)


From the above points, you can observe that the there are more plus points than minus points. Also, many of the minus points are not negative and can be improved by setting necessary infrastructure. After listing these points, we can observe that very few points are personal related and many are related to social. Also, ‘Rich will suffer along with Poor’ is more emotional than logical. Based on the score, the decision would be in favor to block cars from entering the city.

Activities for Practice:

  1. Do PMI on the following Idea. For 1 hour of entertainment, kids should spend 30 minutes on education and development at home.
  2. Students are asked to rate teachers to improve education in School. Do PMI on this Idea.
  3. Kids will be given $1 every week for completing their homework.
  4. Remove all seats from the bus.
  5. Instead of working 8 hours on five days of the week, what about working 10 hours on four days of the week. Do PMI.
  6. Sending Old Parents to Old-Age Home.
  7. All citizens should serve one year in Military during graduation.
  8. Do PMI on Marriage will be a 5-year renewable contract.
  9. Sending Old Parents to Old-Age Home.
  10. No Personal and Corporate Income Tax.
  11. Should you relocate your home close to your office.

References & Further Reading

1. Book - Teach Your Child How to Think by Edward De Bono

2. Book - De Bono’s Thinking Course

Related Skills:

  1. Thinking Skills
  2. Critical Thinking Skills
About Prabakaran Thirumalai 767 Articles
Blogger on topics including Life Skills such as Learning, Thinking, Emotional Intelligence, Motivation, and Social Skills.