Sift, Sort, Rank


  • Helps make decisions.
  • Helps narrow down possible options.
  • To create an opportunity.



  • (sift through) put through a sieve so as to isolate that which is most important or useful : until we sift the evidence ourselves, we can’t comment objectively |
  • (sift out) separate something, esp. something to be discarded, from something else : he asked for streamlined procedures to sift out frivolous applications.


  • arrange systematically in groups; separate according to type, class, etc. : she sorted out the clothes, some to be kept, some to be thrown away.
  • (sort through) look at (a group of things) one after another in order to classify them or make a selection : she sat down and sorted through her mail.


  • give (someone or something) a rank or place within a grading system : rank them in order of preference

Step 1. Develop some criteria to sort your ideas.

  • Efficacy criteria — potential for progress toward solving the problem.
  • User criteria — potential to ‘fit’ with the needs and wants of users.
  • Implementation criteria — potential to initiate, scale.
  • Economic criteria — potential benefit exceeds potential cost.
  • Innovation criteria — potential to be a ‘game-changer.’

Step 2. Assign ‘tentative’ priority these criteria.

  • Sort the criteria generated into at least two groups — mandatory and desirable.
  • Some criteria may need greater specificity or definition to proceed — what about [criteria x] is most important?
  • You may well add, edit, or reconsider priorities (and these criteria) as you test them.

Step 3. List the alternatives that you want to rank AND the criteria against which you want to rank them

Step 4. Try out one of the decision-making processes, eg. Max Axes, Decision Tree.

Step 5. Use it to select a promising idea to prototype.


  • What kinds of criteria are going to help to find a solution with the right “fit”?
  • You could sift, sort, and rank, or you could choose to do one separately (they do not need to be bundled together).