Six Value Medals

Edward de Bono published Six Value Medals in 2005. The framework provides a simple tool for systematically considering different perspectives when investigating value. For creative thinking activities, this can be used in two ways:

  1. At the beginning, to help frame your problem correctly by focusing on areas of greatest value
  2. After ideation, to help select ideas on the basis of their potential value

In an earlier post on idea selection, I wrote that ideas can be selected on the basis of potential impact and ease of investigation in place of more commonly used criteria like ‘will it work’ or ‘can we do it’. This form of Black Swan idea selection avoids the common problem of premature idea termination by suspending judgement a little longer. Instead of deciding whether an idea is will work, or whether or not the team can do it with existing resources, we take the more entrepreneurial approach of focusing on what could be with little regard for the resources we currently have to and (people, relationships, prior experience, similar ideas in play already etc).

In this post, I’ll talk through the six value medals as a tool for understanding what sort of impact we want, and the potential value we think our ideas hold. After all, depending on your perspective, some outcomes will be more desirable than others. We just need to now why.

Note: selecting an idea for further investigation is not the same as deciding to launch a market ready solution. After a team has experimented with ideas in concept, they could start solution building, during which time they could look at marketing plans, consumer research, competitor analysis and so on. 

Gold Medal (personal values)

Gold is valued by people, bringing with it a range of human and emotional values. There are a number of ways of exploring the impact of an idea on people including stakeholder analysis (who is affected, how and which are good or bad impacts), Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs (how does this idea affect us physically, and what are the effects on our feelings of security, belonging, and esteem).

For business ideas we might look at the value proposition to customers paying particular attention to the needs the idea satisfies. Notice that organisational value such as the impact on suppliers can be seen with the silver medal.

Silver Medal (organisational values)

The silver medal is used to consider values to the organisation. This could include values to the entity as a whole such as finance, competitive advantage, market share, access to resources, and brand strength. It could also be used to consider the way members of an organisation interact covering cultural value, communication, or the effectiveness of work distribution. Finally, it should be used to consider relationships between entities such as supplier relationships, partnerships and so on.

For ideas which relate to individuals, the silver medal could be used to look at the way resources are organised, and any relationships with external entities.

Steel Medal (quality values)

Steel is used to signify strength or robustness. This value perspective is used to consider aspects of quality like physical robustness, durability, fitness for purpose, and competitive strength. Depending on the idea being evaluated, it may be useful to differentiate between ‘customers’ and the different features they are likely to value. What is ‘high quality’ for one, may be of limited importance to another.

Other aspects of quality can include ease of use, interoperability with other products, ease of disposal or choice of materials. Features, components and attributes which demonstrate quality will be different depending on the idea.  The basic concept for the steel medal is ‘is it any good?’

Glass Medal (innovation values)

Glass is an amazing material, strongly associated with its ability to scatter light and shape our vision. THe Glass medal is about innovation, creativity and simplicity. When using the glass medal perspective we consider value with questions like ‘what has changed’, ‘what is new’, and ‘what else could this do’.

With definitions of innovation frequently including both novelty and value, this important medal ensures we recognise the value of novelty and creativity in our ideas. When used with the other medals, we are able to gain a strong understanding not only of what is new, but how that newness adds value to the product, to the organisation and to the people who will use it.

Wood Medal (ecology medal)

Studies of the environment involve more than simply saving trees. The purpose of the ecology or environmental value medal is to consider the impact of an idea on its context and surroundings. That includes the people who interact with it, the organisations it touches, and the footprints it leaves behind itself after it has gone. When considering this perspective, we are encouraged to take a step back and examine the  big picture.

Looking a bit further we might ask what the impact is of not using this idea, or what will happen to those who use something else.

Brass Medal (perception medal)

What will the neighbours think? The brass medal is all about perception and appearance. Based on the idea that brass is shiny but isn’t gold, we are guided towards value judgements by others such as ‘how will the market receive this’ or ‘what will marketing think about this’.

Perception is an important consideration and one that might warrant additional thought when deciding how to shape perception in order to encourage idea adoption. Perception is all about our human tendency to form patterns, and to use our past experiences to flavour our expectations for the future. You can read more on de Bono’s view of perception here.


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