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7 Great Ways to Refine Your Brainstorm List

John Lahr
July 30, 2018

After going through the ideation process, ideation facilitators can struggle with which ideas to select from the pool of suggestions. Often times, the pruning process as a whole can be difficult and even conflict ridden due to the variety of theories being tossed around. Despite this, there are a few exercises marketers can incorporate to ensure that the best ideas move forward with the support of the whole team.

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Know Your Limit

It is first important to know when you have reach a your limit or ‘max of ideas’. A limit is set to avoid choice paralysis or simply being overwhelmed by having too broad range of ideas. This doesn’t necessarily mean a hard cap on ideas, but it's important to recognize when your team is just spinning their wheels. That typically indicates they’ve exhausted their creative ideas and it's time to begin refining.

Now it’s time to start narrowing down the best ideas and getting team buy in to move forward to prototyping. According to Samuel Bacharach (a Professor at Cornell University), ideas should be selected based on aspects such as clarity, usability, stability and profitability. With this in mind, we will now examine some practical ways to arrive at the final selection process.

Post-it Voting

While it may sound a bit simplistic at first, this method is actually a strategic way to vote on ideas and aid in the brainstorming process. Ideas generated during an ideation session by team members are then placed on post-it or sticky notes where members vote for the ideas they think are best. Multiple ideas can be voted according to their ranking such as first, second or third place. These ideation techniques create the opportunity to gain a broader understanding of how participants view every presented suggestion. Further, post-it voting can be done so anonymously to help preserve objectivity by avoiding any external influences or pressures.

Categorizing Great Ideas

When implementing this ideation technique, four or more categories are created to place individual ideas in. Additionally, it is possible to place multiple ideas instead of just one into each of these categories. These sections can be divided and labeled according to the leaders’ preference. Some suggestion are as follows: Most Rational, Most Innovative, Most Daring, Most Difficult to Execute etc. This is a great technique for providing some clarity after an intense brainstorming session and frame the strengths and weaknesses of each idea.

Idea Actualization

With this ideation phase, leaders identify and categorize ideas according to their preliminary or suggested structure. Essentially, marketers must ask: What does this idea look like when fully actualized? What form does it take? This practice allows for rapid prototyping but mainly in theory, as a way to help people visualize the design of the idea.

Again, by categorizing prototypes according to their structure or design (i.e. digital, physical, experienced based or user-centered design), marketers can gain a significantly deeper understanding of the theory and what the product would look like when fully implemented. This exercise greatly simplifies the ideation process by providing a clearer understanding of each suggestion which leads to faster product elimination and refinement.

Clustering of Ideas

When clustering ideas, marketers will divide them according to the connections they make. These ideas are divided into groups based on their similarities in theme, presentation, design, strategy, target audience, or topic. Again, this helps with gaining a more big-picture understanding of each theory as well as help eliminate any redundant suggestions.

See What Powers Your Best Ideas

Further, clustering can provide a framework that goes beyond refinement by both showing and predicting how content will perform. This type of clustering can be executed at a far more efficient rate through the power of A.I. technology.

The Six Hats

The Six Hats theory allows marketers to observe every suggested idea from a variety of different viewpoints. Each hat represents a different perspective the viewer can take. This cultivates a more well-rounded, objective approach where every option and position is examined. Further, it can often help people think ‘out of the box’ or out of their comfort zone naturally, aiding with creativity. This six hats are as follows:

  • White Hat- Fact based Approach: What are the Facts? What information is missing?
  • Yellow Hat- Optimistic Approach: What do I like about this idea?
  • Black Hat- Critical Approach: What is wrong or lacking with this idea? (Devil’s Advocate)
  • Red Hat- Emotional Approach: Feelings and intuition oriented. How does this make me feel or react?
  • Green Hat- Creative Approach: How can I add to this idea? What new insights does it provide?
  • Blue Hat- Structured Approach: Ensures that all other ‘hats’ are being used; oversees the group and thinking process as a whole.

Important Questions to be Asked

During the ideation process people should always keep the following questions in mind:

  • Is it fiscally possible?
  • Does it meet some need or desire of your target audience?
  • Do you have the right technology to implement it?
  • How does it add to the vision of the company?
  • Does it align with the original goal of the ideation process?
  • Can you get approval to execute it?

All of these steps will significantly simplify the refinement process as well as bring clarity as to the direction you should take.

For information on the creative process check out our recent guide on idea generation!

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