Capture, Cluster, Rank

If you lead a team of any kind you've experienced this before: you am working on something complicated together, there are many opinions, there is plenty of ambiguity, and it is hard to know what is important and what isn't. When this happens there is a simple exercise to get everyone out of the weeds. I call it Capture, Cluster, Rank. It works best in groups and it only takes 30 minutes.

Capture. Ask a question that gets the heart of what you are trying to do. For example, “Why does this business exist?” Have everyone write down anything that comes to mind. Use one sticky note per thought. Then fill a whiteboard wall full of as many stickies as possible.

Cluster. Use the people you are working with to rearrange the stickies into clusters of related ideas. Draw a circle around each cluster and collectively label it. If a cluster gets really big make sure it shouldn’t be broken down into a second cluster.

Rank. Allow everyone in the group to draw a dot next to their three top clusters.

By the end of this exercise you will have the collective thoughts of your team out of their heads, clustered in front of you into categories and ranked for priority. You’ve taken something fuzzy and turned it into significant visual information that helps everyone move forward.

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Jonathan Collins resides in Portland, OR with his wife and two sons. He is a co-founder of EpipheoSincerely Truman and The Bible Project. He enjoys turning ideas into realities, writing, speaking and breakfast burritos.

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