So your team has a list of great ideas about a mile long and it’s about time to pare down the list. Your goal as TM is to get the team to agree on any idea that makes everyone satisfied. Easier said than done. There are lots of ways to trim ideas and one probably works about as well as another until the team gets down to the final two or three. Factions can develop or one person absolutely MUST have their idea. No amount of rational discussion can avoid the emotional storm of some children (or adults) to not getting their way. Here are some general ideas to help with focusing.

Approval Voting: Instead of getting one choice, each voter chooses as many ideas as they would approve of. If everyone puts the same idea on their list then everyone should be satisfied with that idea. Discard ideas that have little or no approval. I liked to use multiple rounds of this to focus on a select few.

Force Fit: The idea is to take one idea and find a way to make it work with another. The results are often very creative. Don’t jump in too early, but if the team is at loggerheads over two ideas, ask them if they can think of a way to combine them. Don’t suggest how they might combine them. If you get a reply along the lines of, “We can’t have…” ask them, “Why not?”

Positive Statements: Don’t allow negative campaigning over ideas. You want statements that start with, “This is a good idea because…” not statements that start with, “That is a bad idea because…” There is a big emotional difference between the two and attacking leads to defensive and stubborn behavior which will make satisfaction more difficult.

Backup: If you get down to two ideas that can’t be combined despite begging and pleading on your part, suggest that the teams discard those two ideas and go back to the short list of ideas from earlier in the session and select one of those. Sometimes in a power play the goal ends up being to deny the other side more than get something in particular. If that seems to be developing, backup and have the team re-look at some ideas that had modest support earlier.

I believe that what the team does with their chosen idea is far more important that what idea they choose. The little creative choices all along the rest of the process will, in the end, matter more than the starting idea.