The Hundred Dollar Test

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on how to evaluate ideas step-by-step after a brainstorm session. This week I like to build upon that article with another simple evaluation technique called The Hundred Dollar Test.

The Hundred Dollar Test is a lighthearted method that uses fictional money as a voting tool. It’s a straightforward approach you can use, in almost any brainstorm, to quickly judge ideas. It’s a fun technique that will keep participants engaged in the process.

Most people will find it much easier to evaluate ideas by ‘spending’ (emotional) money on their favourite ideas, than by rating them with (rational) points.

Because money appeals to our imagination and is a familiar system of expressing value, it should be no hassle to apply The Hundred Dollar Test, no matter what kind of background the participants have.

How does it work?

1. Give each participant a fictional 100 dollars

Tell each participant to imagine that they have $100 to spend on the ideas. They can spend the money as they like; by spending all the budget on one or a few ideas that are really valuable, or by breaking the budget down into smaller bits and dividing it over several interesting ideas (that have the potential to turn into cash cows).

Hand out a piece of paper to every participant, and ask them to write down on what ideas they want to spend their 100 dollars.

If you want to make your evaluation phase a bit more fun, you can use fake money (for example ‘Monopoly money’). However, be careful. Only do this if your brainstorm subject suits this approach (you don’t want to cheerfully wave with bills if you brainstorm about a reorganisation or other painful cutbacks). And be sure to check if the participants are up for it (for some people using ‘fake bank notes’ might be too far out of their comfort zone; some might even get upset because they find it rather childish).  

2. Ask every participant to ‘spend’ their 100 dollars on their favourite ideas

The money can be spent all at once, or it can be spread, in small amounts, over several ideas.

In addition, you can ask participants to explain (verbally or in writing) why they’ve spent their $100 the way they did. (It can be insightful to understand why someone ‘invested’ in an idea. Often people will have entirely different reasons than you would expect at first. Besides, by sharing the reasoning behind someone’s ‘vote’ he/she has to think about arguments, which can lead to new insights and reveal new benefits.)

3. Make a ‘longlist’ of all the ideas  

Collect all the ideas that have been invested in. Write them down on a flip chart or on a whiteboard. Put the investments ($) in a second column next to the ideas. Add (if available) the investors’ arguments for the investment in a third column.

4. Create a shortlist of the most valuable ideas to elaborate further

Discuss within the group which ideas are the most valuable, and interesting enough to explore further. Do you have difficulty defining a top 3-8? Then perhaps your ‘longlist’ is a bit too long. Nothing to worry about. Simply start over again, by ‘spending’ another 100 dollars on the ideas on the list. However, this time participants can only spend their $100 as 1x $50 and 2x $25.

Apart from individually, The Hundred Dollar Test can also be used as a group exercise. Simply let the group decide how to spend the Hundred Dollars. This will probably result in a shortlist with fewer ideas (than the one created by individuals), yet will also require a team that is perfectly capable of working together.

Does the exercise above help to judge your brainstorm ideas more quickly? Please let me know in the comment box below!


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Other articles on selecting the most promising ideas, that might be helpful:


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