Search form

Three Ways to Work With Ideas:
Generating, Evaluating, Deciding

Last week, in The "Meat" of the Meeting: A 3-Step Process we talked about

  • defining the issue or problem;
  • identifying the vision or goal; and
  • creating the solution or plan.

Within each of those process steps, you want to

  • generate ideas;
  • then evaluate all those ideas; and
  • make a final decision about which ideas to choose.

Let's examine in a bit more depth each of those ways of looking at ideas

Key Points To Take Away

--- Generating ideas means creating a list of possibilities without evaluating them.
--- Evaluating ideas means measuring the worth or appropriateness of the ideas.
--- Deciding means coming to a conclusion or agreement on which ideas to choose.
--- You may do all three activities in each step of the process: problem, vision, solution.


The benefit of bringing people together is to capture their varied ideas. You want to generate creative thinking from everyone. What do they think is the problem? What do they think the goal should be? Tools for generating ideas are mostly variations on brainstorming. You can ask participants to just toss out ideas, divide them into subgroups, or use sticky notes to collect ideas. You can use graphic formats like a fishbone diagram or brain mapping. The key in this step is to encourage suggestions without evaluation.

Now that you have collected lots of ideas, you need to evaluate them or organize them in a way that will help your group come to a conclusion. You might want to look at the pros and cons of a particular decision, compare suggestions against specific criteria, or create a prioritized list of ideas. Now is the time for participants to voice their opinions about the value or effectiveness of different suggestions.

Finally, the group needs to make a decision. This is often the hardest part of the process. Using an appropriate evaluation tool will make deciding easier for the group. You might use voting, voting with a super-majority (higher than 51%), or consensus. Whatever tool you use, the goal is to arrive at an agreement that meets your desired outcome for that task.

Next week we will outline hints for choosing the right tool and, in future articles, will describe a number of specific tools in detail.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Choosing the right tools to achieve your meeting goals.


About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

Learn more by clicking the links below:

* Read biographies
Learn about Pam and Dee.

* Read a "backgrounder"
What will you learn from this series?

* See the Great Meetings archive
See past articles in the series.