After the ‘Storm: Compare and Prioritize Ideas
We’re in our 5th episode of our series about generating ideas with our team toward action. The first two episodes were all about idea generation. The 3rd was about grouping and exploring ideas. The 4th was about screening ideas. Now, we’ll look at ways to compare ideas.
We’re still considering that we’re just after brainstorming, at the point where we have many ideas and no next steps.
Let’s compare ideas with our team so we can move toward action. We explore these Quality Tools and how to use them after a brainstorming or other idea-generating team activity:
- paired comparison
- prioritization matrix
Reminders when evaluating ideas with a team
We need to Mind our Mindset
Recognize that it’s difficult to evaluate ideas from a brainstorming activity into actions for next steps.
We’re handling ideas systematically with our team to get the maximum benefit from our creative phase.
We want to control our itch for a quick decision on the best idea – to do so would ruin our efforts toward creativity and innovative ideas.
We aren’t looking to eliminate ideas. We’re looking to develop them to the best solution we think there could be.
Yes, we approach activities with the spirit of developing creative ideas. We say things like, “That’s a great idea, what can we do to make it work?” or “What is it about this idea we can use?”
No, we don’t want to just eliminate ideas. We try to avoid first jumping to say things like, “That’s a great idea, but here’s why it won’t work.”
We’d like consensus on a clear option, which is that place where everyone supports the decision, even if it wasn’t their first choice.
We discuss to clarify ideas. If it’s not clear, then let’s make sure that everyone understands the information about some ideas.
We don’t need to pressure anyone to change votes, but we do need to ensure we’re all voting on the same idea, or the same understanding of an idea.
We can pair-wise compare ideas against each other. We can apply a weight when comparing which idea we think is better when compared to the other. Like this:
Have a lot of criteria and a lot of choices? Consider iterating through paired comparisons to get to a weighted ranking of ideas based on all the criteria.
- Weight Criteria
- Compare all ideas against each criterion
- Score and rank each idea considering the weights
We can also take a disciplined approach with DMRCS.
Other Quality during Design podcast episodes you might like:
Try this Method to Help with Complex Decisions (DMRCS)
Learn more about a prioritization matrix through ASQ:
What is a Decision Matrix? Pugh, Problem, or Selection Grid | ASQ
Previous episodes in our series about generating ideas with our team toward action:
Episode 1: Ways to Gather Ideas with a Team
Episode 2: Product Design with Brainstorming, with Emily Haidemenos (A Chat with Cross Functional Experts)
Episode 3: After the ‘Storm: Group and Explore Ideas
Episode 4: After the ‘Storm: Pareto Voting and Screening Methods
Team picture designed by macrovector / Freepik Other pictures designed by Freepik.
This is our fifth episode in our series about generating ideas with our team toward action. In the first two episodes was started at the beginning of 2023. We generated ideas and discussed different ways that we can approach our problem or our goal in order to generate ideas. We’re now at the point where we have a lot of ideas and we can’t really define next steps. We have to narrow into our choice in order to take action. We have talked about ideas to screen and select ideas using quality tools. We talked about affinity diagrams and two by two charts and multivoting. Today we’re going to talk about paired comparison. More about paired comparison after this brief introduction.
Hello and welcome to Quality During Design, the place to use quality thinking to create products, others love for less. Each week we talk about ways to use quality during design, engineering, and product development. My name is Diana Dini. I’m a senior level quality, professional, and engineer with over 20 years of experience in manufacturing and design. Listen in and then join us. Visit quality during design.com.
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Welcome back. We’re using quality tools as visual aids to do team-based activities, to take a creative phase of teamwork and move that toward decisions where we can take next steps. We’re not really looking to get a quick decision and just eliminate a bunch of ideas. Instead, we’re handling ideas systematically so that we can get the most benefit from our creative phase. What is it about this idea we can use? What can we do to make this idea work? Here’s our scenario for this episode. We have done, uh, team brainstorming activity or idea generation activity, and we’ve already taken some steps to prioritize or group them or reduce our list of ideas. With some projects, there’s a lot of ideas, so we need to group them and further explore them before we can decide what actions to take. In that case, we may have used an affinity diagram team sorting method, and if we needed to further explore ideas, we used a fishbone or a tree diagram.
All of these are visual quality tools. If our team needed to think through ideas together, then we likely used a list reduction activity to reduce the number of ideas and combine like ideas. There are times that we’ll do a brainstorming session, group ideas in a two by two chart, like urgent versus important or value versus effort, and then decide which action to take, and then we’re done. We move on with actions.
And sometimes, still, there’s too many good ideas, so we use the brain trust of the team to vote on what they think are the top priorities. We use multivoting to narrow the list of choices and further discuss options. Now what? Now we may still need to make a final decision. One way we can do this is to use paired comparisons.
In paired comparisons, we’re going to compare ideas against each other. Idea versus idea in pairs or sets. This does different things than the other things that we’ve done. In the two by two chart, we compared ideas against criteria. In multivoting, we compared ideas against a goal In paired comparisons, we’re comparing ideas against each other, and we’re also ranking ideas based on individual preferences versus overall criteria.
Here’s what I mean. For each pair of ideas, we’re going to make a comparison. We’re going to use a three level comparison like major, moderate, or minimal, or we could use a two level comparison. We’re assessing each idea against the other in this comparison, so we would say that this idea is moderately better than the other idea or this idea is minorly better than the other idea. We’re not only choosing which idea is the better out of the two, but we’re also assigning a weight to it. How much better is this idea than the other idea? The better the idea is, the higher the value we assign, each idea that is better gets a plus value added to its rank. Here’s an example. We’re going to compare idea alpha against Idea Bravo, and we think Bravo is moderately better, so we’re going to assign Bravo a moderately better ranking and given a value of two. Then we compare Idea Charlie against Idea Bravo, and we think Bravo is significantly better in a major way, so we’re going to assign idea Bravo a value of three. Now, idea Bravo has a total ranking value of two plus three equals five. In the end, we’ll have our list of ideas that are ranked in order of preference. I’ll post an example of paired comparison on the podcast blog and the example compares five ideas, and it’ll be easier to see how this all fits together and how paired comparison works.
We can compare ideas systematically with our team. We could also combine this activity with the multivoting. Either way, we are comparing ideas and giving them a rank and priority based on which one is better and by how much. Our goal is team consensus, which again is that place where everyone supports the decision even if it wasn’t their first choice, and we’re going to look for a clear option, so we need to ensure that we’re all voting on the same ideas or the same understanding of the ideas. In last week’s episode with Multivoting, we talked about the importance of getting the decider involved and they can get involved in the paired comparison process, also. Or another way to get the decider involved is to have the best idea and then an alternative idea ready with the pros and cons of each. The paired comparison approach will give you that listing of ideas in order of rank.
What if the decision that we face is really complicated or expensive? Which supplier should we use? For example, we have options for how we want to run our experiment. Which options should we choose to get the maximum benefit out of the activity?
When the decision has competing objectives and we have multiple criteria that we can measure our ideas against, then we want to do something different than a binary yes no or pass fail. We can do a prioritization matrix which adds weighted value to both the criteria and the options. To do this, we have a goal that is clearly defined. We have criteria that the decision must meet, and then we do a paired comparison of the criteria first to give them a weighted value. Then we compare the ideas versus their criteria using those weighted values. We can do this as a team or we can do this like we do the affinity diagrams and the multivoting. Individuals give their weights and they’re tallied after each step. Big differences are discussed for understanding. This method requires more work and a lot more matrices. Not only are we comparing criteria against each other, we’re comparing the ideas against each individual criteria, and then we’re combining it all in the end to give us a ranking of the idea. But when we have a decision that is complicated or that there’s a lot at stake, these extra steps could mean a better decision.
Another more robust method is D M R C S. Short for define, measure, reduce, combine, and select. It’s modeled after the six sigma D M A I C instead. D M R C S is a structured understanding of competitive choices. This method may add more vigor to our problem statement. It also helps us to slow down to consider how we’re going to measure our options and then consider if the measures we choose link back to what we’re trying to accomplish.
The analysis is more rigorous too. With appropriate measures, we can start to analyze our ideas graphically for comparisons and plots like scatter plots and mixture plots. We get into more detail about DMRCS in another podcast episode, which I’ll link to in the blog. In that episode, I quoted a statistician, and I think it applies at the end of this episode, also. Dr. Anderson Cook warned about some assumptions when using any of these decision making models. She says, “Sometimes even the best decision making can yield an undesirable outcome in the post-decision assessment. Try to separate the outcome from the process of making the decision. Sometimes you’re just unlucky that this should not negate the fact that you followed a sound process to make the decision. The opposite is also possible. You can see a great outcome despite a non-thoughtful process, but you shouldn’t always count on this working out.”
In other words, using a team to generate ideas and then systematically following through on those ideas with the team in order to make a decision or come to a conclusion can maximize all that creativity that our team has. If we rush to a decision about which option to take without really thoroughly exploring the ideas that our team created, we’re cutting short the creation process, and we may end up with an idea that was quick to come to, but may not be the best idea or the most creative idea that we could have come up with.
What’s today’s insight to action? Paired comparison is a way that we can systematically compare ideas against each other and against multiple criteria. And we can use a DMRCS process, which allows us to have a structured understanding of many competitive choices. By using some of these quality tools on the back end of a brainstorming session, where we’re doing quiet brainstorming individually coming up with ideas, we’re giving ourselves the best chance to come up with the best idea by using frameworks in order to share, discuss, prioritize, and decide on the best way forward. Listen in to next week’s episode where I’ll be talking about design sprints. A lot of what we’ve been covering in this mini-series folds nicely into that. I look forward to joining you. Then,
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