Crowdsourced Idea Convergence

Four Categories

The four categories method encourages users to consider those crazy but meaningful ideas [1]. In this way the teams can take into consideration also potentially interesting ideas with low degree of rationality but potentially interesting outcomes.

What? Instead of inventing categories from scratch, the evaluators can distribute the ideas among four categories: the rational choice, the most likely to delight, the darling and the long shot. The “rational choice” refers to ideas that are most logical and provide the highest amount of utility. The “most likely to delight” refers to ideas that will potentially deliver a high degree of gratification or pleasure. The “darling” refers to the evaluators’ favorite ideas. The “long shot” refers to ideas that involve a great risk but equally great rewards if successful.

Why? The method uses predefined categories that enhance the degree of structure. The big advantage of this method is that after the ideas are categorized, the ones with the desired properties can be further pursued.

How? Depending on the size of the group, the participants can either discuss the allocation of each idea to one of the four categories or incorporate aspects of post-it voting. The goal of this technique is to make the team consider not only the rational, obvious ideas, but also the creative ones that display a low degree of rationality. For example if the stakeholders of the project prefer innovation instead of rationality, they can focus on the ideas that belong to the "long shot" category.

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Reflective Questions

What are the disadvantages of having a completely “open” method like Affinity Diagrams in comparison to a more structured one like Four Categories/Bingo Selection?

You are holding a brainstorming session with some colleagues and the goal is to come up with ideas for a completely new product of any kind. You have gathered many ideas, but now they need to be categorized. You have looked at Affinity Diagram and found some variations of the method, like the Four Categories oder Bingo Selection methods. Which method would you choose and why?

Your idea contest resulted in hundreds of submissions, and your colleagues agreed to help you with categorizing the ideas. You are afraid that if you give them predefined categories, some unusual ideas that don’t fit might get lost. On the other hand, you are afraid that if you let them define the categories by themselves, they might have trouble understanding the categories chosen by other colleagues. How would you design the categories (open name fields vs. predefined names) and would you use a method like Four Categories or Bingo Selection?

What would you advise a manager who only focuses on the "low hanging fruits" and just pursues the most rational ideas?

How would you rate the outcome of a brainstorming session that resulted in only unusual ideas, the so called long shots? How would you rate the outcome if there had been only rational ideas?


  1. Siang, Teo & Dam, Rikke (2018). Four Categories Method, retrieved from, accessed on 01.09.2018
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