Select the most promising ideas by sketching your solutions

After a typical brainstorm session, you end up with a wall plastered with post-its. So far, so good. But how do you select the most promising ideas? Usually, you will find that all participants have different favourites. Besides, the ideas are probably hard to compare, since some are really big or vague, while others are specific or extremely detailed. To solve this comparison-problem, you can use visual thinking to turn the most promising ideas into solution sketches.

Follow the steps below after your brainstorm session to find the best ideas. All steps are done individually and should take approximately 10 minutes.

Step 1. Read & take notes
Ask participants to read all the ideas that have been generated during the brainstorm session. Instruct them to take notes of the things they like. They don’t have to generate new ideas; they should simply copy the things that they find interesting. They can take as many notes as they want to.

Step 2. Draw to make ideas tangible
The second step is about making the ideas tangible. Ask everybody to create rough sketches. They can use the notes of their favourite solutions as inspiration. How would these solutions look in real life? Participants don’t have to share their sketches, so they can doodle all they want.

Step 3. Draw to explore
Once they’ve created the first drawings, participants will start to see which ideas are most feasible and inspiring. Now it’s time to choose one idea and explore it further. Stimulate people to draw as many variations of the idea as possible. To force people to look at their idea from different angles you could ask them to draw 8 variations in 8 minutes. A facilitator could set a timer and give a sign when a minute has passed – so everyone knows it’s time to draw a new variation. This exercise might seem extreme, but it will force people to stretch their thinking.

Step 4. Draw your solution
The last step is about drawing the final solution. Ask all participants to create a detailed sketch of their favourite solution. Let participants work out a single idea. If they have more than one favourite, let them create a solution sketch for each idea separately. The Solution Sketch should be self-explanatory.

Emphasize that ‘ugly drawings’ are ok. It’s not a drawing competition. Drawing a solution sketch is about explaining your idea, not about showing off your drawing skills!

Every solution sketch should have a catchy title; a nickname for the idea, so people can refer to it. Let people add text to explain the idea (the idea in one sentence, important details, how the idea works, etc).

After the last step, you can organize a ‘gallery walk’. Put all solution sketches on the wall, like paintings in a museum. Make sure that all sketches are anonymous. Otherwise, people might automatically like the director’s sketch the most.

Ask participants to place sticky dots on the drawings (and the details) they find most interesting. Afterwards, discuss all dots plenary and choose the best solution(s) to turn into a prototype or project-proposal.


Sketching solutions is one of several ways to quickly identify the most promising ideas after a fruitful brainstorm session. Read these articles for alternative ways to select the most promising ideas after your brainstorm session:

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