ICE Scoring: how to prioritise many competing ideas

We rarely stop to think about how we make decisions, but the quality and consistency with which you make decisions is one of the main factors contributing to your business' success

ICE Scoring: how to prioritise many competing ideas

So how do you know which idea is the right next thing to try? How much do you rely on your intuition, your insights into the problem that although you can’t fully express, are what made you start the business in the first place? And how often do you rely on data to drive your decisions?

As entrepreneurs, we rarely experience the kind of clarity and conviction that makes the next steps obvious to us. We are either chasing decisions already made or are delaying making them as long as possible, unsure which is the right one.

One tool that I’ve found reliably helpful in creating clarity when weighing many competing ideas is the ICE scoring model.

ICE Scoring: a tool for creating clarity

Perfect for when you have lots of competing ideas, ICE scoring is a technique I use myself and with my clients. It’s also a great tool to support communication in your team — and you can run an ICE workshop in 30 minutes.

Let’s say you’ve generated 10+ ideas for what to do next, but only have the resources to deliver three of them. You’re wondering which three to choose — you can use the ICE scoring model to help you decide.

Here’s how it works:

1. Start by listing all competing ideas.

First, you gather in one place (eg. on a whiteboard, in Miro or Trello) all the ideas you are considering implementing.

2. Next, score each idea on a scale of 1–10 according to:

  • Impact it will have on your key metric
  • Confidence you have in it having that impact
  • Ease of implementation

It’s great to do this with your team, discussing each score and creating consensus on each component! It’s an easy way to allow your team to contribute to decision-making and align on priorities.

3. Calculate the scores

Now add up all three scores and then divide the result by 3, that’s your ICE score.

For example: if you rated an idea with an Impact: 9, Confidence: 5, Ease: 7, the total is 21. Divide that by 3 and your ICE score for this idea is 7.

4. Prioritise those ideas

Now it’s time to look at the top-scoring ideas — are they the ones you expected? Are they the ones you believe will have the highest impact on your business? Will you pick the top 3 and move forward or will you challenge the scoring?

Provoking your instincts

One other thing ICE scoring is great for, other than letting you sort your ideas by importance, is provoking your instincts. You’ve probably had a ‘secret favourite’ amongst the ideas, and it will come out during the scoring — you’ll either be relieved that it had a high score or annoyed at the method, that it scored low.

Instead of dismissing the thoughts (or the method) get curious and find out what’s really behind them. Such a reductive tool as ICE scoring will not give you a simple answer to a complex challenge but will provide an alternative and impartial point of view. It will often surface unconscious thoughts and force you to get clear on your real priorities.

Whether you follow the results or not, you now have a reliable method for generating an alternative and valid point of view when comparing many ideas.

Milosz Falinski
About the author

Milosz Falinski

Founder of Lumi Design, design Strategy expert and startup veteran. Businesses Milosz has worked on tend to be acquired.

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