After the idea generation…how to evaluate?


The idea generation, or ‘brainstorm’ (or ‘thought shower’ as someone suggested recently) is done. You’ve got heaps of wild and wonderful ideas, concepts, and suggestions. So now what?

A point that’s made crystal clear in Zoomly’s ‘How to brainstorm ideas’ workshop is the need to separate idea generation from idea evaluation. These are two different functions and need different facilitation, tools and techniques. It’s quite possible that a different cast of characters may be required.

Think about it: the objectives are almost opposites. Generating ideas requires creativity, originality, a sense of safety from censure and permission to suggest the unexpected. The aim is to have a wide range of ideas. Once that’s done, evaluating ideas requires rational expert judgement, a clear set of criteria against which to reduce the number of ideas that will make it to the next stage of development.

The often child-like delight in generating ideas (just watch a group of professional adults given a set of LEGO, a brief and a time challenge) makes way for a parent/guardian approach. There are procedures, check and balances, and budgets to be considered. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to revert to their usual meeting mode – far from it.

Try a mix of these techniques to weigh up what stays and what goes:

Give everyone 5 sticky stars – yes, like the ones at school – and ask people to vote for their favourite idea/s. Up to you if you want to insist only one star per voter for each idea.

Traffic lights
Everyone rates each idea with one of 3 colours: red is ‘no-go’, amber is ‘possible, if…’, green is ‘good to go to next stage’.

2 x 2 matrix
You decide on the axes, e.g. ‘speed to market’, ‘cost’, ‘potential volume’, ‘global potential’ etc. Depending on the reasons for generating ideas, you may have several matrices to weigh up different factors. Then plot the ideas in each of the 4 quadrants. It can be revealing to get different teams doing this; regroup and see how the matrices are similar/different.

Force field analysis
Kurt Lewin’s model aims to identify the ‘Driving Forces’ and ‘Restraining Forces’ for or against change. These forces may be internal to the business or beyond it.


6 Thinking Hats
Edward de Bono’s technique of applying six different approaches can be a great way to keep the session cohesive and amicable, as its strength is that everyone’s pet approach – whether wild ideas or cautious auditing – gets their turn.


Decision matrix analysis
Not all the factors in your decision-making will have equal importance. This is where a decision matrix can help. Mind tools has a handy intro.

Let me know how you get on, and if you have any questions about facilitating idea generation, please get in touch.

Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’

Copyright Zoomly




Image credits:
Innovative Lamp, Big Idea – file404-Depositphotos
Hand holds gold start – abscent-Depositphotos
Black top hat – grgroupstock-Depositphotos


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