After the ‘Storm: Group and Explore Ideas

We're in our 3rd episode into our series about generating ideas with our team toward actionThe previous two episodes were all about idea generation. 

We’re now at the point where we have many ideas and no next steps.

Let's group and explore our ideas 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: 

  • Affinity Diagram team sorting method
  • Fishbone
  • Tree Diagrams

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.” 

Discussing Ideas

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. 

Grouping and Exploring Ideas

Affinity Diagram

Generally, team members individually judge or arrange, next we discuss as a team, and then (if we need to) we judge, again. 

This is a team sorting method. Randomly post all ideas together - in-office or virtual whiteboards and sticky notes work, as long as everyone can move them.

Watch out! Don't order notes, determine categories ahead of time, and don’t discuss the groupings while people are sorting them individually. 

Fishbone for Goals Thumbnail

Fishbone for Goals

Fishbone Diagram

Explore ideas to a deeper level to get to actions. Use the headings from the Affinity Diagram as headings for the Fishbone Diagram. Notice where there are gaps.


Tree Diagram

Tree Diagram

Tree Diagram

Explore a particular idea further to get to actions.


Other Quality during Design podcast episodes you might like:

Fishbone Diagram: A Supertool to Understand Problems, Potential Solutions, and Goals

Visit for a good overview of affinity diagrams:

"What is an Affinity Diagram?" ASQ, Accessed 10 Jan 2023.

People graphics by Freepik.

Did you find an idea, help, or inspiration? Then please share:

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