How To Pick The Best Ideas After A Brainstorm

Last week we asked our readers what we should be writing about in our weekly articles. We want to make sure that we keep creating valuable content on ‘business creativity’ for you. We got a lot of response through our website and via email. One particular issue seems to be a profound challenge among our readers; how to evaluate creative ideas.

“How do you turn a large number of creative ideas into just one or a few novel, yet feasible ideas?” “How do you guide your colleagues, right after a ‘mind-blowing brainstorm experience’ (where everything is possible), through the critical evaluation phase where they have to end up with novel and realistic solutions that can be executed?”

Among brainstorming professionals, there are a few steps that are often used to quickly evaluate ideas without losing too much time arguing about the details.

First of all, start by putting all the ideas on the wall. This way participants can see how many ideas they have generated. This will make them more enthusiastic about their input and it will make them excited to choose the best ideas.

Next, cluster the ideas. Create themes. Group similar ideas and ideas with a shared topic or concept. Write down the name of the theme on a sticky note, in big, fat capitalized letters, and place it visible for everybody on the wall above the ideas within that specific group.

After the clustering, you give each idea a unique number. Start with idea 1, then idea 2, etc. Continue until you’ve numbered all the ideas. (It’s important that during the brainstorm participants write down each idea on a separate piece of paper. This will make it much easier to vote on the ideas.)

Ask participants to individually make a top 5 of all the ideas. Ask them to individually write down the numbers of these ideas on a piece of paper. What do they think are the best ideas? Which ideas are most likely to solve our challenge? Make sure the participants don’t consult each other, because you want to use the wisdom of the crowd.

Ask the participants to take a good look at the focus, your starting challenge. Ask them to be honest when judging the ideas. Which ideas have the potential of solving your challenge best? Challenge the participants to think critically as well as creatively. Don’t let realism and pragmatism hold them back. It’s tempting to choose the ‘safe’ and conventional ideas but these ideas are often not good enough. We are looking for creative ideas. Everything can be made possible with some creative thinking. Don’t think about whether it would be possible or not, just think about if it would solve your challenge or not. That’s most important.

Once everybody has his or her top 5, give each participant 5 small stickers; 5 votes. Ask them to place a tiny sticker on each of their chosen ideas. It’s important to first make them write down their top-5 anonymously, because you want to prevent ‘group-think’ or influencing of any kind. 

After the voting, you create a shortlist of all the ideas that have been voted on by the group. After assembling this list, it’s time to put all the ideas into a simple evaluation matrix.

Using the matrix below, you will separate the most valuable ideas based on four possibilities.

  1. High impact and low effort
    These ideas are excellent. Extremely valuable and you should execute them right away!
  2. High impact and high effort
    Definitely worth investigating. (Can you also reach the same impact with less effort?)
  3. Low impact and low effort
    Not very suitable. You’re looking for high impact ideas. Can you increase the impact?
  4. Low impact and high effort
    Your lowest priority. Focus on the other ideas.



The great thing about this matrix is that you can see the quick wins (the so-called “low hanging fruit”) as well as the interesting ideas that still need some work. This technique will save you a lot of time and will definitely help to spot the interesting ideas that need your attention.

Be aware this technique is just a simple tool to get a picture of potential opportunities. Creative ideas often still need some work. See if you can inspire your team to take the best ideas one step further…

Do you want to know more about creative evaluation or about ‘business creativity’? Don’t hesitate to contact us. You can reach us via or you can call us on 010 30 70 534.

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Free download: We created a template of this technique that you can download and use whenever you want to improve your brainstorm output.

Free Idea Matrix

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  • Richard Scott Rahn

    I completely agree with what you have written. I hope this post could reach more people as this was truly an interesting post.

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