What To Do With The Results Of A Brainstorming Session

Picture this: You have just finished a brainstorming session and are left with a huge pile of post-it notes to work with. You know some of the ideas will never see the light of day. How do you go about finding, “the one”?

Brainstorming is commonly used in group settings to generate a large number of ideas about a topic through creative thinking. A major benefit of holding brainstorming sessions is that it allows stakeholders with conflicting views and interests to seat down together and identify possible solutions to a problem within a collaborative setting. This can help create buy-in when a solution is eventually identified.

To avoid derailing the session or allowing analysis paralysis to set in, evaluation of ideas is usually delayed until after the brainstorming session. The challenge often lies in determining how to incorporate the relevant ideas gathered during the session into actionable insights that will result in meeting the needs of the business.

Facilitating a brainstorming session is only the beginning. There's a lot of analysis and possibly, more brainstorming to be done to identify the best way forward. This article outlines four techniques that can be used to evaluate or analyse ideas after a brainstorming session is concluded and work your way through the huge pile of ideas.

1. Voting is particularly useful when:

  • The decision to be made is subjective or 
  • Many members of the team have power over the outcome but cannot seem to arrive at a consensus.

Voting can be applied to ranking or prioritizing the ideas gathered during the brainstorming session after discussing their pros and cons. It should be conducted as a separate activity with key stakeholders after the main brainstorming session is over.

Reduce your list to the most relevant ideas by voting. Take a look at all the ideas and let each stakeholder vote on which ones have a direct impact or relevance to the issue — eliminate the ones that are irrelevant. 

2. Affinity Diagrams are extremely useful in grouping similar items together as a theme. Ideas that are similar or belong to the same category can be grouped together for easier decision-making and analysis. 

An affinity diagram can provide useful insights into the categories you need to explore for further analysis and complements the other techniques.

3. Decision Matrices help in understanding the implication of each idea and deciding which to go with. Take each idea and discuss its merits, demerits, implications & probable outcomes and then assign a score to each to help you determine which alternative is best. With this technique, you can compare a combination of options at a go. See Weighted Scoring Model: A Technique for Comparing Software Tools.

4. Six Thinking Hats help in examining the different perspectives to an idea. Assessing an idea from multiple perspectives increases understanding and provides a well-rounded assessment. See The Six Thinking Hats Technique.

Where requirements are involved, the MoSCoW Technique can also be used for prioritizing requirements. These are by no means the only techniques that can be used to analyse the results of a brainstorming session. Other techniques like SWOT Analysis, 5 Whys and cause & effect diagrams can also be employed to analyse the results of the brainstorming session and help the team come to a decision on the best course of action.

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