Idea Triage

Version 1.0 (December 2020)


Idea Triage is a quick exercise that allows participants to self-select into a group with a shared interest to work on, instead of being assigned a group at random or based on other factors. We find it helps get people engaged early in the workshop as they find their tribe.

Why use it?

The tool doesn’t take much time, and it’s easy to use. It also gives agency to participants and works as a nice bridge from ice breakers to topic-specific exercises.

Who is it for?

Facilitators and teachers are obvious targets, but it could be useful for anyone who’s leading an event where several people need to be put into groups, and there’s time to have them self-select into topics of interest.

How long does it take?

A quick version can be done in 10-15 minutes. This typically can work for smaller groups (20-25 participants), especially if they’re generally comfortable with a bit of ambiguity and engaging in a workshop setting. Longer versions with more participants and/or the pitching option for Step 3 can take 30 minutes or more.

How many people is it for?

It’s typically used for workshops with 20-40 participants, but has been used with larger groups. (Larger groups tend to take more time to get through the process of idea sorting and selecting.)

What materials do you need?

For in-person events, post-its are necessary as a mobile mode of conveying ideas. Pencils, pens, or markers are also needed. Aside from that, a whiteboard, chalkboard, flip board, or open wall space that’s large enough to handle a few ideas from each participant, with space to move them around, is all that you need. 
You can upload our template in an online whiteboard program and interact directly with it for online events.

What does the facilitator need to know or be able to do?

No particular skills are needed to facilitate this tool. The most important thing to do is think through how you’ll do Step 3 (Find Your Tribe), as this step can be handled in various ways. If time is tight, we typically call out each of the idea groups in turn and ask participants to do a show of hands for the ones they’re potentially interested in. Depending on how that turns out, you may have people quickly self-select into groups and be ready for the next activity, or you may need to either spend time with groups/individuals that are unsure or just give them time and space to work through it.


Chris Oestereich developed the Idea Triage tool for the Circular Design Lab and Linear to Circular.



Who's using this tool?

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