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Top 100 Lists

Brief Description:

Adapted from the OHCHR Toolkit:
Top 100 Lists is an approach for capturing a high level and large number of ideas, and a technique that calls for participants’ contribution to foster the flow of innovative ideas.


When to use:

  • To generate ideas
  • To encourage creativity and thinking out of the box
  • To brainstorm with structure
  • To break the ice
  • To activate past learning.

How to use:

  1. Begin by identifying the issue to be tackled with a list of possible solutions and related ideas.
  2. Prepare an adequate space in the room to make the Top 100 list accessible to all (with flip charts, paper hanging on the wall, a whiteboard, coloured cards, or a collective notepad).
  3. Write the problem at the top of the working space, followed by the numbers 1 to 100. The high number is what makes the method effective. It forces a profound level of reflection that reaches all corners of the mind.
  4. Ask participants to come up with their ideas as quickly as possible. All ideas should be recorded, even if they seem obscure or irrational.
  • The first 30 ideas tend to be the obvious ones, as they stem from the recent memory or most-repeated experiences of participants.
  • The next 40 ideas will begin to demonstrate patterns and trends. These ideas tend to be the most difficult to generate because they require diverging from the habitual approach.
  • The final 30 entries are often the most imaginative and innovative, perhaps even absurd, because by this time the most common options have already been exhausted. This is the most profitable phase of the process, where shifts in perspective are most likely to occur.
  1. Lead a reflection process once 100 ideas have been produced. This should examine the general trends and patterns, as well as the plausibility of the entries themselves.
  2. The information can then be used in a variety of complementary exercises that analyze and use the information produced. One approach is to cluster and then prioritize the points, as after a brainstorming session.
  3. Reproduce the list in a reusable format in order to include it in the end-of-activity report, or on the Intranet.

Tips and Lessons Learnt

  • Be sure to provide enough time to complete the list, because it is only effective when done in one sitting or in one specific, dedicated period (for example, over a three-day training event).
  • Rid the room of all distractions. This includes turning off mobile devices and finishing any drinks.
  • Repeated ideas may provide clues to the thought processes of participants. Therefore address them only at the end of the session.
  • Instruct participants to use acronyms and short forms, and to avoid full sentences as they consume precious time and energy.

Examples & Stories

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Who can tell me more?



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Photo or image credits

top_100_lists.txt · Last modified: 2018/07/08 15:22 (external edit)