The occasional musing about design, games, music, etc.

After the brainstorm: 8 questions to find winning ideas

My previous post on brainstorms was intended to help get people out of their element, and generate a slew of new ideas. Ideas that hopefully help make you or your clients do things better, and help reach your goals. Idea generation however, is maybe the easiest part of this whole process. The next place many creative people stumble is in filtering those ideas down to pick winners. I’ve been working on this set of questions to help filter out the weak ideas, and pick the strong ones. To give credit where due, it should be mentioned that I’ve adapted these from the genius Jesse Schell and his awesome set of game design practices. I’ve tried to reframe them for more general application to the type of digital work that I’m involved with.

The technique is simple. Take your pool of ideas that you’ve just generated, and hold each one up and ask the following questions. The ideas that meet the majority or all of the questions are the ones that will be more self-propelling, genuine, and setup to succeed. So without any more yammering, here’s the questions and a little note about each:

1. Does this idea feel right?
This leverages your gut reaction as a design thinker. Just look at the idea, describe it to yourself, and judge your own reaction as to if it is a “good idea”. Try to give special focus to skipping over novelty, industry or company inside jokes, or being a reaction to something else that has recently gotten attention.

2. Will the audience like it enough?
Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes for a minute, and think about it from their point of view. Is it still viable? Be sure to avoid thinking about it as you yourself think about it. Almost always, the target audience doesn’t have the same tastes, experiences, or expectations that you do.

3. Does this idea encourage a well designed experience?
Most ideas have some element of interaction, story, or other mechanic to them. If you can’t think of a mechanic, the idea may not be ripe yet. Think about how the idea will keep people’s interest over time. Does it already trigger images of a nice aesthetic? These thoughts will give insight into the idea’s longevity.

4. Is there something really innovative here?
If this instantly makes your or your colleagues say “this is great, it’s just like X”, you may need to drop this one. You’re really looking for novelty with your idea, that gives it the best chance of getting noticed and being successful.

5. Does this idea make business sense?
Most creative people try to avoid this one, because they always feel like business sense is a bummer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having an idea based on a sound business idea will keep putting fuel on the fire, and keep everyone involved very engaged.

6. Is this technically possible?
The other side of the bummer coin for many creative people is the “that’s not possible” test. If you have a good creatively-minded technologist in your team, you’ll need to run these past them to check for possibility. If you work for a big company where technology is it’s own department, you’ll probably get more “no way” responses, since they generally aren’t incentivized to take on crazy challenges.

7. Is this idea social enough?
Any good idea has a certain element of social engagement built into the core of the idea. People will get excited about the idea or product and will inherently share it with friends and family. Check if your idea has something that compliment this in it’s core. If so, it stands to gain popularity very quickly once it’s realized.

8. Do my peers like it?
The final test is one of the simplest. Find a close partner or friend who gets what you do and will be very honest with you, and explain the idea quickly to them, then get their gut reaction. Use them as a sound board to validate the idea.

Feel free to adjust your ideas or designs as needed to adapt to the eight questions, but the key here is to be sure your ideas pass all eight! If you’re idea doesn’t stand up to all of the filters, it’s probably not going to be a winner!