Tools & Methods 002: Value Sorting

As discussed in the previous Tools & Methods post, brainstorming drove me crazy in the 1990s because the results were never converged back down to actionable strategies. Over the years I have learned to use multiple tools to translate ideas into comprehensive strategies that the client can implement to succeed.

Patrick Whitney, Dean of the IIT Institute of Design, explains that the Sweet Spot of Innovation comes at the intersection of what is Desirable (valued benefits), Possible (technology capability) and Viable (sustainable profits). Below is a modified diagram, where some of the words have been changed but the meaning is the same:

Based on the above three requirements, I developed the Value Sorting Tool, which is a convergence tool to ensure valuable strategies have been created. While I do spend a lot of time with my clients in divergence exercises, I find that convergence is really the most exciting area. Below is an example of my convergence tool, called Value Sorting, which includes the addition of Protectability (legal protection from competition):

After the divergence exercise has been completed, I proceed with Affinity Mapping in order to create multi-layered strategies. This is followed by the use of the Value Sorting Tool. The participants rate each of the four value requirements on a 1-10 scale. I also provide the participants a cheat sheet giving examples of a 1, 5 and 10 value level for each requirement. I also give them a separate cheat sheet after the rating has occurred in order to organize the results. The two “no-brainers” are if all four requirements have high scores (do it) and if the all have low scores (throw away). The interesting part is when most scores are high but one is low. Then there must be a decision whether to develop a Minimum Viable Project in order to see if the low score can be raised. More on the Minimum Viable Project in future blogposts.

It is very important to have people from different areas of the business in the room during this exercise. I have often found that people typically rate the requirement that affects their area as higher than requirements that affect another person’s area. Having them create value together will guarantee a lively discussion.

Download the Value Sorting template Please read the Creative Commons requirements.

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