Brainstorm evaluation: Paired Comparison Analysis

A while ago, I wrote an article on how to use criteria as a tool to evaluate brainstorm ideas. This week I like to discuss another evaluation method called ‘Paired Comparison Analysis’.

One of the hardest parts of brainstorming is picking the best ideas. You can’t execute all ideas. However, you don’t want to make the wrong choices either. Deciding which ideas to work on can be really difficult. Especially when there are no hard criteria. Fortunately, using Paired Comparison Analysis makes the selection of ideas a lot easier.

How does Paired Comparison Analysis work?


Step 1. Create a shortlist
Select the most popular ideas that have been generated during your brainstorm session. To discover the group’s favourite ideas you can use ‘dot voting’ or ‘anonymous voting’.

Ask participants to also look out for ridiculous (yet interesting) ideas. Ideas that are clearly impossible, yet that would have a big impact if there was a way to implement them. It’s often these outrageous suggestions that lead to amazing solutions. Select the weird ideas that the group finds interesting and see if you can turn some of them into ‘realistic’ ideas.

Step 2. Create a comparison table
Create a table and write the shortlisted ideas in the first column on the left side of the table. Assign a letter to each idea (A, B, C etcetera). Write the same letters in the top row of the table. Next, cross out the cells that compare the same idea. Also, cross out the ‘double’ combinations.

Step 3. Compare the ideas
Compare the ideas within each cell and choose a favourite idea for each combination.

Step 4. Rank the ideas
Assign a score to each winning idea from 0 to 3. (0=no difference and 3=major difference).

Step 5. Count the votes and pick a winner
Count the number of points for each idea and pick a winner.

Imagine you have to organise a fun teambuilding activity for your department, and you’re looking for new ideas. After a brainstorm, you’ve selected the following ideas to choose from:

  • Sushi Workshop
  • Paintball
  • Escape room
  • Pub quiz

Your ‘paired comparison analysis’ table could look something like this:


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Evaluating creative ideas is but one of many steps in the innovation process. Would you like to turn your team into an unstoppable innovation machine? Check out our Innovation Course. A group of 5 to 16 participants go through all phases of the innovation process and learn how to generate added value for clients and the own organisation.

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