Decide Where You Want to Go: Narrow and Focus
It’s week 6 in this 12-week series on Creating a Strategy. You’re halfway through. Last week’s focus was on Ideation. Going big, bold, and broad to consider many possibilities. This week we pull things in to narrow to your top ideas or themes and vote on the best ones to move forward.
Narrow and Focus
Once you’ve completed Ideation, you will have a large number of ideas. The next step is to create focus. You need to sort the bad, so-so, or not-now ideas from the good, top, or best-ideas-for-now, ideas. One way to do this is to Sort and Cluster your ideas. The Sort and Cluster technique can be used anytime you are trying to discover themes, and trends, or organize a number of things.
Sort and Cluster can also be used to analyze pieces of data. For example, if you have done several customer interviews, you probably have a bunch of notes. Looking across many pages of notes, it can be hard to determine the key takeaways or insights. Instead, translate important notes or insights to sticky notes or notecards and into clusters or groups. This will allow you to see patterns and key themes.
How to Sort and Cluster:
- Start with all your ideas or inputs (ex., Insights from interviews) or ideas from Ideation. If you’ve just completed Ideation, use the whiteboard or wall of stickies you just created or generated.
- Review them and sort them into clusters of like ideas or insights. Create as many as you need to represent your idea groupings — remember that you’re trying to categorize your ideas or information, so try to find groupings when possible.
- Review and reflect. What do these clusters tell you? What do they make you think of? What are the themes or trends?
Once your ideas are sorted into idea themes, you must prioritize them to determine where to focus. We recommend using Dot Voting to prioritize due to its ability to allow independent opinions yet still reach a collective decision. It also creates a visual heat map that’s easy to see and share.
Dot Voting uses sticker dots or other similar indicators to allow individuals to vote for their favorite ideas, creating consensus among a group.
How to do Dot Voting:
- Start with ideas from Ideation, Insights, or your Clusters. (see above)
- Take a group of participants who either created the ideas, insights, or clusters or are very familiar with them. (Blind voting or voting without context isn’t helpful.) Assign the number of dots based on the number of items and the number of people you have voting. You can use color and size to add additional nuance. For example, you might give people three green dots to vote on ideas they love and two yellow dots to vote on the ideas they like.
- Vote by placing a dot next to the idea, theme, or cluster. Establish a limited amount of time in which each individual can walk around and place their votes.
- Following voting, review the top ideas and the bottom ideas. Discuss what the votes tell you. Reflect on the similarities and differences between what you might have expected and where you are.
- Take the top ideas, themes, or clusters and move them forward. Put the remaining ideas on a shelf for another day.
To decide where you want to go, you must open your mind wide and explore, you must translate your exploration into tangible ideas of what could be, and you must narrow it to key idea themes or macro trends that you want to pursue. Once you have completed this, you are ready to create a path to get there. Look for that in the coming weeks.
Pause and reflect. Look back at the work you’ve done so far. Based on your topic ideas and clusters- what will have to change? Does this validate or invalidate where you currently are? Write them down, and we’ll return to them.
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