Brainstorming II: How Do You Decide which Ideas to Implement?

In a previous post, we have shed some light on what brainstorming is and how to do it. brainstorming-idea-decision-matrixThe result of brainstorming could be:

  • A flipchart full of idea cards
  • A list or an outline with ideas
  • A Mind map

You will certainly ask, “Now what’s next?”

Suppose we have done a family brainstorming session on “How can we make our family happier?” As result, we have gotten a flip chart full of ideas.

While some ideas, such as being friendly and helpful, might depend on a personal commitment only, the majority will likely require further work and clear priorities.

We will not be able or willing to realize all ideas. After all, our energy is limited, and some ideas might not be worth doing.

This post suggests an easy-to-follow road map, which includes Filtering, Idea Development, Multipoint Voting, and the Decision Matrix.

Don’t make a decision in your first brainstorming session

Brainstorming requires our creative mind; that is, we want to get as many ideas as possible and withhold all criticism. But now we need to switch on our critical mind. What’s more, having spent time to come up with ideas as a team, we need a method that is acceptable to everyone to decide on “what’s next?” Even if you are the Boss and have told everyone in advance that you want their ideas, but will make the decision yourself, the following ideas will be helpful.

To clearly separate idea generation from idea evaluation, I suggest you do them in two different sessions, preferably a few days apart. We want our ideas to leave an impression and trigger further thoughts in the team (here our family) before proceeding.

The Roadmap

The initial step after brainstorming is to remove duplicate ideas.

Then you have to:

  1. Filter out obvious “No Gos.”
  2. Develop ideas further.
  3. Evaluate ideas.
  4. Decide on the ideas you want to use.
  5. Implement your favorite ideas (not part of this post).

After removing the duplicates, we need to find out which ideas we want to use, which ones need further development, and which ones we don’t want to use. The ones we want to use we put into action (make them work).

Tip: Cluster similar ideas (form groups of similar ideas) to find more general ideas and concepts. This can be done very easily with idea cards or a computer mind map.

Some of the ideas may be very useful, but we need to develop them further. Make more money maybe very important if our family lacks money, but it is a very general idea.

We need to find ways to make money, for example by doing another brainstorming session and using the question “How can we make more money?” or “What do we need to make more money?”

Before further developing ideas, we use a set of simple criteria as a filter to remove ideas we don’t want to work with any further.

The easiest criteria in form of questions could be:

  • Is it worth doing? – Ideas that are not worth doing are crossed out
  • Can we do it? – Do we have the time, money, and people to do it? – Ideas we obviously can’t do are crossed out.
  • Are we interested in doing it? – Ideas no one is interested in are crossed out as well.
  • Start with a small brainstorming session to see if other criteria are relevant for this “filtering step.”

If there is no consensus on removing an idea, we keep it for now.

Evaluating Ideas

After developing the ideas, we need to evaluate them, and for this, we need to find criteria that are relevant to evaluating our ideas.

Possible criteria

  • How fast can we do it?
  • How great is the benefit? / How effective will the idea be?
  • How easy is it to do?
  • How cheap is it?
  • How risky is it?
  • How do I feel about the idea?
  • ……

Again, do a small brainstorming session to see if other criteria are relevant for this step.

Here then are two easy strategies to decide which ideas to implement:

Multipoint Voting

We can use Multipoint Voting to decide on our (four or five) favorite ideas.brainstorming-idea-multipoint-voting

Each member gets a packet of five sticky dots and places the dots on the ideas he/she likes the most. You can place all dots on one idea, on five different ideas, or on any other combination.

A variation of Multipoint Voting to experiment with: Each member gets a packet of dots that is about half the number of ideas. If we have 20 ideas, each member gets 10 dots. Again, each member has to place the dots on the ideas he/she likes the most. You can place a maximum of 2 dots on one idea.

The Decision Matrix

Multipoint Voting is straightforward and fast, but does not explicitly compare ideas with respect to different criteria. The Decision Matrix is a more analytical yet still easy-to-implement approach. You can use it by itself or as a second step after narrowing down your ideas with Multipoint Voting.

How to make a decision matrix in a group?

As a group:

  1. Use Brainstorming (or another method) to find evaluation criteria.
  2. Use Multipoint Voting to select relevant criteria. The number depends on the topic/ideas (try five for a start).
  3. Draw a decision matrix on a whiteboard/flipchart/computer with LCD.
    • Header row: Names of the ideas
    • First column: Decision criteria

Decision Matrix Template:

Criteria Idea 1 Idea 2 Idea 3
How fast?
Benefits?
Easy?
Cheap?
Riskfree?
Feeling
Sum    

 

  1. Every participant chooses his / her favorite for each of the criteria on a personal A4/Letter sheet. I suggest you do this as a “secret vote.”
Criteria Favorite
How fast? Idea1
Benefits? Idea2
Easy? Idea1
Cheap? Idea1
Riskfree? Idea3
Feeling Idea2

Finally, we collect the sheets and populate the Decision Matrix: An idea gets a point in the decision matrix every time it is named as a favorite (in the corresponding criterion cell).

  1. We sum up the points for each idea. The winner is the idea with the most points…

This concludes our post on evaluating ideas in a group. In my experience, Multipoint Voting and the Decision Matrix are easy to understand and implement, and quite effective group decision methods. PMI (suggested by Edward de Bono) is another popular but slightly more complex method. PMI works best when you want to compare a few ideas in detail. What methods do you use  to decide on ideas after a brainstorming session?

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