Techniques to Prioritize

Affinity Clustering

Collect ideas and identify common themes.

A great technique to pair with Rose Thorn Bud, use Affinity Diagramming to organize user-created sticky notes around common themes, questions, and topics. After reshuffling the sticky notes into topical clusters, read out some of the responses and invite participants to elaborate on what they wrote. Going through the clusters one by one helps organize your discussion–and it may help participants coalesce around some key ideas and themes that will propel their shared work forward.

Related Techniques: Rose Thorn Bud

Related Experiences: Planning, Ideation, Knowledge-Sharing, Feedback

Links & Examples


Sort key priorities from less-critical ideas.

A tool for prioritizing how important different ideas are – or how soon you should take them on. Add ideas by placing sticky notes on the chart in order of importance, and keep in mind that only a few ideas can be at the center. Consider using this as a station-based, heavily facilitated exercise: see how each new group chooses to reshuffle ideas on the diagram to represent their own priorities, and keep track of which ideas tended to remain near the center.

Related Techniques: World Cafe

Related Experiences: Planning, Kick-Off, Recruitment, Ideation, Knowledge-Sharing, Summit, Feedback

Links & Examples

Dot Voting

Vote for your favorites, move the most promising ideas forward.

A practical, quantifiable way to help a group narrow their options from many choices to few. First, display the choices on a wall or table, giving ample room for people to gather, read, and reflect. Allow time for participants to do a “gallery walk” and browse their choices, then give each person the same number of dots to place on the items they like best. You can use fancy dot stickers, or just have people can use markers to indicate their choices. Tally the results and repeat as needed.

Related Techniques: Statement Starters, Concept Posters, Dot Voting, Statement Starters, Round Robin, Dot Voting, Creative Matrix, Dot Voting, Impact/Effort Matrix

Related Experiences: Planning, Ideation, Knowledge-Sharing, Feedback

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Impact/Effort Matrix

Plot ideas based on their practical demands and their potential.

A systematic way to visualize the potential effort required for a particular task and its expected impact. This technique works best when you have a very specific question in mind; for example, “Who might we engage to join this collective impact project?” Then, plot people or organizations on the grid based on how difficult it might be to engage them and how much of an impact their involvement might have. Once you’ve placed items on the grid, divide the grid into quadrants and focus on the two high-impact quadrants: high-impact, low-effort ideas are quick wins that are worth pursuing soon, while high-impact, high-effort ideas are more likely long-term strategic projects.

Related Techniques: Personas, Stakeholder Mapping, Impact/Effort Matrix, Experience Diagramming, Creative Matrix, Dot Voting, Impact/Effort Matrix

Related Experiences: Planning, Recruitment, Ideation, Knowledge-Sharing, Feedback

Links & Examples