Narrowing the list with n/3

Rob over at 63 Buckets recently had an excellent post where he discussed the nominal group technique. This brought to mind a neat trick that can be used to help a team take a large list of ideas and scope them down into a more manageable range. This technique is called n/3. I am not sure who first came up with this technique so if you know please leave a comment and fill me in. I have also heard this technique called different things but the idea is exactly the same.

How it Works

Let’s say your team comes up with a few flip charts worth of ideas after a brainstorming session. For the sake of this example let’s say they have 24 ideas total which they feel is too many to work on at once.

In this case, n is 24. As the name of the technique implies we then take 24 and divide it by 3. This, after plugging it into the calculator (kidding), gives us 8. Heavy stuff, eh?

OK, now each person involved in the brainstorming session gets 8 votes. So they each go to the flip chart and place a check or post it note besides the 8 ideas they think are best. Once each person has the chance to vote the team takes note of which ideas got the most votes enabling them to narrow this list down, eliminating some of the other ideas (for now).

Depending on how many ideas you had to start with you may need to go through a few rounds of n/3 until you get to a more manageable level of ideas.

So there you have it… that is n/3. Give it a go sometime and let us know how it works out. There are some other techniques to help us narrow the list of ideas but I will leave them for another day.