Maximizing ROI: How to Prioritize and Converge Ideas for Business Success
Updated: Feb 17
After hours of brainstorming, you find yourself buried in heaps of promising ideas. Every post-it- promises a product, every doodle- dreams up the next big thing. However, you are also facing a looming launch date and a depleting budget. You also might have different perspective with your team-member who might be interested in another idea.
So, what now? :)
In Design Thinking, the skillset to converge and prioritise your ideas is really just as important than the skillset to brainstorm and be creative! You need to converge your ideas using a framework that will allow you to prioritise, organise and evaluate your ideas and help you pick (or even merge) one idea/solution. The following 3 frameworks will help you and your team to rationalise ideas and pick the best one- ideally based on user or stakeholder needs, rather than one that was cheap, easy to do or the one your boss instigated.
As with all your brainstorming sessions, the Design Thinking facilitator will pave the way for deep and focused discussions on how to converge your ideas. Remember to get a bigger audience to be involved as much as possible- subject matter experts, your sponsors or key stakeholders- to gain objective perspective rather than having just the team's perspective. These frameworks will then allow you to have a sense of what ideas to pick and decide together.
Teamwork and communication are keys to work through the convergence of ideas and get unstuck to make informed decisions.
UNSTUCK FRAMEWORK 1- AFFINITY MAP
An Affinity Map helps you formulate relationships between ideas. These affinities must be based on value proposition (how your idea will solve the problem or provide a business value) that your team develop towards your final design direction.
At this point, if all your ideas have been listed on a single sheet of paper, it will be wise to transfer them to post-its- 1 post-it per idea. Post-its are brilliant tools of affinity.
To advocate collaborative work, the Design Thinking facilitator should recommend the members to begin the exercise in complete silence. If discussion takes place- people with differing opinions end up in argument while the mind-space to internally organise is wasted by talking. So do sort and label ideas in silence and then discuss it.
Also, it saves on precious time that can be spent on doing the hard work.
Spent the time, mind-space and hard work on labelling the ideas in silence.
Once done, lay out all your ideas for everyone in the team to review. Then start moving the ideas around, grouping them in categories and labelling the categories in clear and concise terms for all to understand. For ease of visualisation, use a different coloured post-it for your category labels.
Continue this until you end up with 3-4 strong affinity groups of ideas, that you could get them presented as a design direction. Discard the ideas that do not belong and be firm in your reasoning behind the discards. There is no need to accommodate or stretch your category definitions in order to get everyone’s ideas to be included. However, everyone has to agree and be aligned in the overall design direction.
Tip: You may use the Affinity Map at earlier stages of the Design Thinking process- especially if you wish to create affinity amongst the research insights from interviews and observations.
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UNSTUCK FRAMEWORK 2- PRIORITISATION MAP
A Prioritisation Map lets you manage your ideas based on Ease of Implementation (how easy for the organisation to build the solution) against Level of Benefit (how does the solution benefit to users' needs and solve their problems).
Chart out the vertical axis from Low Benefit to High Benefit and the horizontal axis
from Easy To Implement to Difficult To Implement as seen below:
Entirely based on the team's decision- discuss and decide which sector your ideas belong in. Then populate the map with all your ideas.
The ones within <High Benefit / Easy to Implement> are low-lying fruits that the team ought to take action on those as priority. While the ones in <High Benefit / Difficult to Implement> could be "sexy" and cool ideas that will be beneficial and innovative for the long-term future.
The ones with <Low Benefit / Easy to Implement> should be de-prioritised while the <Low Benefit / Difficult to Implement> should be "write-off" as it is too much effort to do something that delivers little value.
UNSTUCK FRAMEWORK 3- IDEA EVALUATION
This final framework, is simple, may be familiar to most and more importantly, can be customised to the needs of your organisation without dismissing user requirements. Idea evaluation is an extensive way of analysing ideas based on customer impact.
The following table is one example you may use:
Jot down key points of each idea based on the Evaluation Criteria that you have set. The Evaluation Criteria could be business impact, customer benefit, potential for growth, feasibility of implementation, price, innovation etc. You may rank the ideas against the criteria, with 1 being the best and X (dependent on the number of ideas you have) being the worst.
Add up the the scores in each column and execute the idea that has the lowest sum!
The idea to unstuck your ideas is to really have clear confidence on which idea to move ahead to the next phase (Prototype)- given the set of criteria the team have set. This doesn't mean that your other ideas are "written-off". It means you have a focus on which idea to move ahead and will definitely revisit if the idea you have selected doesn't work.
I will be adding more articles on Design Thinking throughout the year. Articles of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test will be added periodically to give my readers a broader insights to Design Thinking.
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About the Author
Daniel Ling has more than 10 years of Design Thinking experience and has moulded himself to be a “designer in a business suit”- strong in the Design Thinking process and yet relevant to the financial and business industry- across OCBC, DBS, NTUC Income and Lazada. He trained close to 500 professionals in the area of Design Thinking, Innovation and Strategy. He authored the Complete Design Thinking Guide for Successful Professionals and the book is sold worldwide via Amazon, iTunes, Ingram, Lulu and Kinokuniya.
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