The Best Ideas are Wild and Easy

One of my favorite workshops to facilitate is a brainstorming workshop. We’ve all participated in poorly run brainstorms so folks find it refreshing when I show them guidelines for how to run an effective one.

A brainstorm has two parts:

1. An idea generation part (divergent)

2. An idea assessment part (convergent)

Part two is often overlooked–people engage in part one and generate tons of ideas but when asked to choose which ideas to move forward on, we’re handed a sheet of little orange stickers and asked to mark the “best” ideas.

But what are the best ideas? Without criteria, this process is meaningless. Additionally, if we don’t have criteria for assessing ideas, folks will gravitate to either the craziest ideas that are impossible to implement or to the safest ideas. And if you’re gonna move forward on the safest idea, then you didn’t need to brainstorm.

So after a brainstorm, what we really need is criteria for assessing the ideas we generate. I like to use an evaluative matrix in which “safe ideas and wild ideas” are plotted on one axis, and “easy to implement, hard to implement” ideas are plotted on the other. If you do this, a bunch of ideas will end up in the “Wild and Easy” quadrant. I suggest that you choose one of those.

You want to move forward on ideas that are somewhat wild–this is why we brainstorm in the first place–but that are also easy to implement and test. Because prototyping and testing is where the design work really begins–when we get out of our heads, make something with our hands, put it in to someone else’s hands, and gather their feedback. How to assess that feedback, however, is another post. Stay tuned.

Happy designing!