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The PINC Filter

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When you are creating ideas for anything from improving processes to inventing new products, coming up with ideas is, in some ways, one of the easiest things to do. A particular problem that follows initial ideation, however, is which ideas to take forward for further development. This is where the PINC filter comes in.

PINC stands for Positives, Interesting, Negatives and Concerns

The best way of brainstorming is not to leap straight to a complete answer but to start with seeds, open thoughts that can be developed into more useful solutions. Going slow often results in a far better eventual answer. For example, if the problem is customer dissatisfaction with telephone waiting time, an obvious jump-to-solution answer is to add more customer service representatives. A more open seeding thought is to entertain them while they are waiting.

A classic way of filtering the set of ideas that results from initial ideation is to balance positives and negatives about each idea. Yet many ideas are not clearly beneficial or problematic, so it can be a good method to separate the positives into clear pros and things that could be pros, but at the moment are just interesting. Interesting ideas are ones that make you tingle, thinking there could be something in here, but you may not quite know yet what it is. For example the ‘entertain customers’ could have the positive that it should reduce the boredom of waiting and the interesting point that it could put them in a good mood, resulting in an easier interaction for customer service representatives.

On the negative side, it is useful likewise to differentiate between the clear disadvantages of the idea and niggling concerns. For example the entertainment idea has an obvious negative in that it does not reduce the waiting time. More of a worry is that it may not work and could even act to exacerbate the customers’ dissatisfaction.

All this can be done on a flipchart with a group of people, using a format something like the table below.


Problem:  Customers are dissatisfied with call waiting time

Idea:  Entertain them while they are waiting



Reduces boredom of waiting

Keep them entertained for longer waits

Costs less

Does not reduce waiting time



Puts them in good mood

Customers could be irritated rather than entertained

They may want to hear the end of the entertainment


The real benefit of the PINC filter comes with the next step, where the results are used for further brainstorming. Now we focus on the interesting and concerning items, for example we could reframe the question as to how to put the waiting customer in a good mood, or at least how not to irritate them. This is idea development and can result in a more innovative, practical and cost-effective final solution.


Next time: Organizational Health Check


This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Chartered Quality Institute


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