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Clustering is used to organize and analyse large numbers of ideas by categorising them. By organising and reorganising ideas, students gain a better appreciation of, and dialogue about, their ideas. As students create idea clusters, new contexts and connections among themes emerge.

Because data is presented visually, the method is particularly suited for group work where students assemble and optimise idea clusters together.

The method can be used post ideation. (couple with a search for idea generation methods)

The exercise will generate categories that students can add to and develop further and finally, use to pluck individual ideas from. (couple with a search for idea selection methods)


  • Post-its with ideas written on them are arranged in clusters/categories. The clusters are then named. Use a wall or large sheet of paper to stick the Post-its to.
  • If necessary, have students reorganise their ideas until all ideas find their way into a cluster. It’s up to students to develop the most suitable categories.
  • Students should also categorise new ideas if they emerge throughout the exercise.

It’s a good idea to have students present their final idea clusters for the class. The way they cluster ideas is often telling of how they perceive their projects. When presenting their clusters the students should also consider if they are getting ideas within certain themes and if they need explore more opportunities, because the clustering exercise often makes one aware of areas that need more uncovering.

Worth Considering

The innovation matrix is a variant of this method. Ideas are situated in a matrix, where one axis describes the type of innovation (for example, from incremental to radical innovation), and the other axis describes how feasible the ideas are. When ideas are situated in a matrix, the students will then have a foundation for choosing ideas to work further on.


You will need to use a large sheet of paper, markers and Post-it notes.

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