Idea Selection

27.03.2018 |

Episode #7 of the course Introduction to design thinking by Lee-Sean Huang


Yesterday, we learned about ideation and “Yes, and” to generate many ideas in a short amount of time. Now we need to decide which ideas we should prototype.

Idea selection requires us to be prickly again. While we were holding off on judgment in ideation, now we need our judgment to whittle down the number of ideas.

Below are four parts to idea selection.


Group Concepts

Group related ideas together by theme, genre, or medium. In the case of design ideas for Rob, our user from Lesson 5, we may choose to group the noise-cancelling headphones and privacy hood idea into the “wearables” category, and the bookable cocoon, sleeping bag, and rest pod into the “architectural.” Try to combine ideas. Think about creating a system. For example, what if the privacy pod idea comes with noise-cancelling headphones and VR goggles for entertainment?

Physically move and rearrange your notecards or sticky notes. If you have your ideas up on a writable surface like a whiteboard or flipchart, draw circles and lines to connect related ideas, and label the groupings such as “wearables” and “architectural” accordingly using a different colored marker or paper. Get your collaborators from the ideation phase to help you. Everybody in the group, not just the lead facilitator, should feel comfortable with moving idea cards around.


Define Evaluation Criteria

Next, we need to define the evaluation criteria to help us narrow down our ideas. You may choose to do this in advance as the facilitator or design lead, or you can make this a participatory process with members of your team. We will use these criteria to help us deliberate and vote on the ideas that will move forward.

Some sample criteria:

• most practical/rational—could be implemented relatively easily

• best addresses the user’s need—regardless of feasibility or business sustainability

• most innovative/awesome—based on the personal preferences and interests of the team

• most challenging—really pushes the team out of our comfort zone

You may choose some or all of these. You can ask your team for input on how to redefine these criteria. You may also choose to open it up to your team to see if anyone wants to introduce any additional criteria and considerations for deliberation and voting.



Give everyone on the team a chance to express their opinions about the design ideas on the table. Deliberation may even surface additional new ideas that can be added to the pool of ideas.

You may choose an organic, “popcorn” style, where team members discuss the ideas in a casual, free-flowing way, or facilitate a more structured process, where team members share their opinions one by one in a predetermined order. The more structured format guarantees time for quieter team members to have their voices heard.

Deliberation may get heated and turn into more of a debate if people get emotionally vested in their own ideas. Encourage people to refer to the ideas by name or description (“the headphone idea”), rather than by possessives (“my booth idea”). Regardless of the origin of a given idea, all of the ideas now “belong” to everyone.

If you have a clearly defined hierarchical decision-making structure, you might choose to skip voting. Just have the relevant decision makers choose the idea(s) that move forward. But do keep the deliberation step intact. This makes team members feel like their ideas and opinions are being taken into consideration, even if the process is not completely “democratic.”

If you will be conducting a vote, it is important to allow team members to deliberate beforehand. Deliberation can often help clarify the evaluation criteria and may even cause people to change their minds. In some cases, a clear consensus may emerge, in which case, you may choose to skip voting altogether.



Once everyone has deliberated, move on to voting. Give each team member a set of colored dot stickers that corresponds to each of the criteria. For example, “most practical/rational” is green and “most awesome” is red. Vote in silence. You may need to deliberate some more if there is a tie, or conduct a run-off vote by a show of hands.

Once the winning idea(s) are set, you will be ready for Prototyping, which we will talk about tomorrow.


Recommended book

The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman


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