the balloon debate: the prioritisation and evaluation of ideas


The Balloon Debate was the catalyst for the Big Brother reality TV programme. While I enjoy the press comment more than the TV programme, the debates amongst BB contestants and their subsequent evictions are really just a media-savvy serialisation of the Balloon Debate idea.

In the Balloon Debate a group of people each represent the case for a different point or idea. They pretend to be stuck in a hot air balloon that is dangerously loosing altitude. There are a series of short debates, each ending in a vote by participants or an audience, with the looser of each round leaving the game. Eventually just one survivor remains and the strongest argument wins.


The reason I mention this debate game is that there are times when you may be faced with a range of business points that need to be narrowed down or better prioritised. The Balloon Debate is a tool that may help you.

Points suitable for debate include potential propositions for a brief, the evaluation of a range of creative concepts or a list of business tasks that require prioritisation and budget commitment.

You may just go through the process yourself, but you will benefit by debating the points with an informed team. An informal version of the Balloon Debate provides a technique for evaluating and reducing options within a group of key decision makers. It also makes the participants feel consulted, as well as more aware of the relative merits, flaws and requirements of each item being debated. It may also help with gaining team buy-in to difficult decisions and priorities.

Two tips.

– The team version is most productive in the absence of hot air. So set a time limit for each debate point to be discussed in.

– Each debate point needs to be articulated fairly, don’t loose an idea because of poor presentation. You may even wish each point to be presented by the same person, but then opened up to debate within the group.

Happy flying.

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