How to Choose a Project Fast

JavaScript projects

WARNING: You are now entering the “Project Phase”.

Regardless of the field within which you work or study, one of the hardest parts of doing a project or developing a product is coming up with an initial idea. It can be difficult to think of novel ideas that will also result in something interesting, feasible, and/or useful. I’m going to briefly outline the process I like to use to come up with a viable project or product idea.

Step 1: Brainstorm

This may seem like an obvious first step, but in my experience, most people don’t brainstorm effectively. Even when working in a group, it is important to begin brainstorming silently and independently, before sharing out ideas in a group. When moderating a brainstorming session, I like to give people about five minutes of independent, guided brainstorming. By guided, I mean that about once a minute, I provide my group with a prompt to help initiate divergent thinking. For example, I’ll say things like, “Ok, now imagine you are developing a product for five-year-olds,” or perhaps, “Actually, you’re grandma is going to be using this.” These prompts can be anything so long as they will result in a variety of diverse ideas.

Step 2: Cull

After the initial brainstorming session is over, you’ll want to post all of the group’s ideas anonymously in one place. This could be on a whiteboard, a google doc etc… Working through the list of ideas, briefly discuss each idea as a group; if they get to an idea and realize they absolutely do not know what they meant, they can eliminate it.

After hearing all ideas, quickly go through them one-by-one and eliminate or keep: if ONE person says “keep”, keep the idea on the board, otherwise, eliminate it.

Step 3: Choose

Finally, vote on the remaining ideas. All group members to vote for multiple ideas, but the idea with the most votes wins. If there is a tie, call on someone to “stump” for each idea and then vote again on those that tied.

Variation

Instead of only choosing one final idea, instead have the group vote for the “most inspirational” idea, “most practical” idea, and the “most profitable” idea. Take a break until the next time you meet, and then narrow down the idea to one of these three.

Written on August 8, 2015