In the previous article, we determined Mastering Brainstorming Techniques: Learn How to Run a Brainstorming Session which should result in a heap of interesting, crazy, bad and excellent ideas. But how do you choose the best one?
Let's take a hypothetical example and have a closer look at the selection process. The ultimate goal of a brainstorming session is to make your business more successful. When the session is over, there is an impressive amount of ideas on your flip chart. Some of the proposals represent minor changes, but most of them involve a lot of hard work and often the necessity to clarify your company's priorities. Moreover, you will not be able to realize all the proposed changes, because your options are limited, and some of the ideas are simply not worth the effort.
Do Not Make a Decision during the First Brainstorming Session
Brainstorming requires creative thinking, which is to say you want to get as many ideas as possible and withhold any critical remarks. When looking for an excellent solution, every team member has to engage his critical mind. Moreover, if all your team members came up with ideas, you need an evaluation method that is acceptable to everyone. The below-mentioned ideas will be helpful, even if you are the boss and have told everyone that you appreciate their ideas, but you will be the one responsible for making the final decision.
In order to separate the creative and evaluation part of a brainstorming session, it is ideal to hold two separate meetings, preferably a few days apart. The best ideas need time to flourish and trigger new thoughts in your team.
How to Proceed
The first thing you need to do after a brainstorming meeting is to eliminate all duplicate ideas. Once you have done this, you have to:
- Get rid of obvious nonsense
- Evaluate different ideas
- Decide on the ideas you could use
- Implement your favourite procedures
Once you filter out the duplicates, you need to decide on which thoughts are worth further elaboration, and get rid of those you do not want to use. Ideas you want to use should be put into practice as soon as possible. You can put similar ideas to groups and try to find their common denominator.
Some of the suggestions may be excellent, but you have to think about them thoroughly. If your company does not perform very well, it is a great idea to suggest that it would be excellent to earn more money. But it is a very general idea. You need to find out how can you make money. You can organize another brainstorming session and try to find an answer to the question "How can we make more?" or "What do we need to do to have more money?"
Before further elaboration of selected ideas, you can specify simple criteria as a filter for suggestions you do not want to work with. Use the following questions to get rid of useless ideas:
- Is it worth doing? Ideas that are not worth doing will be automatically rejected.
- Can we make it? Do we have enough money, time and people? Suggestions that cannot be realized do not deserve further consideration.
- Is the idea of our interest? If not, do not waste time on its elaboration.
If there is no consensus on removing a specific idea, leave it for further discussion. Try to organize a smaller brainstorming session focused on questions and criteria regarding the exclusion of irrelevant suggestions generated during previous sessions.
Evaluation of Suitable Ideas
To decide on which ideas are good and which are not worth your attention, you need to focus on the following criteria:
- How long will it take us?
- What are the benefits?
- How difficult is it to implement the idea?
- How much does it cost?
- Is it risky?
- How do we feel about the idea?
Again, you can try a short brainstorming meeting to work on other possible criteria.
There are two strategies which will help you decide on the best ideas.
Each team member can mark several ideas he likes. Everyone receives the same number of points (ideally four or five) which he uses to mark the ideas he considers the most appropriate. It is possible to can use all points to support one idea, mark five different suggestions or create a combination.
You can also use a different form of multipoint voting: each member receives a number of points that is about half the number of ideas. If you work with twenty ideas, each member gets ten points, and one idea can receive a maximum of two points.
The multipoint voting method is fast and effective but does not evaluate ideas with respect to selected criteria. The decision matrix is more analytical, yet still an easy approach. In addition, it can be used as a second part of the decision-making process after multipoint voting.
How to involve the decision matrix into the group decision-making process:
- Use brainstorming or another method to determine evaluation criteria.
- Use multipoint voting to select the relevant criteria. Their number depends on the particular idea (you should be fine with five)
- Draw a decision matrix on a whiteboard, flip chart or monitor
Top row: Individual ideas or their names
First row: Decision criteria
Decision matrix template:
Each participant chooses his winner for each of the criteria. The best method is to do a secret vote. Then you collect the form and evaluate the results. An idea gets a point in the decision matrix every time it is named as a favourite. The absolute winner is then the idea with the most points.
When evaluating and selecting the best idea from a brainstorming session, it's important to follow a systematic approach. First, separate the creative and evaluation phases. Eliminate duplicate ideas and filter out nonsense suggestions. Then, consider criteria such as worth, feasibility, and relevance to refine your selection. By following this structured approach, you can identify the most promising idea for implementation, taking into account factors like time, benefits, difficulty, cost, risk, and overall perception.