How-Now-Wow Matrix

Posted: January 5th, 2011 | Added by: | Filed under: Games for decision-making, Gamestorming wiki | Tags: , , , , , | 7 comments »

When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’.

The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.

Object of play: This game naturally follows the creative idea generation phase and helps players select ideas to develop further.

Number of players: 1 to 30

Duration of play: 10 to 40 mins

What you’ll need: Flip-chart sized paper, some markers, lots of voting dots in 3 colors (blue, yellow, green)


  1. Draw a 2-by-2 matrix as above. The X axis denotes the originality of the idea and the Y axis shows the ease of implementation.
  2. Label the quadrants as:
    1. Now/Blue Ideas – Normal ideas, easy to implement. These are typically low-hanging fruit and solutions to fill existing gaps in processes. These normally result in incremental benefits.
    2. How/Yellow Ideas – Original ideas, impossible to implement. These are breakthrough ideas in terms of impact, but absolutely impossible to implement right now given current technology/budget constraints.
    3. Wow/Green Ideas – Original ideas, easy to implement. ‘Wow’ ideas are those with potential for orbit-shifting change and possible to implement within current reality.

How to Play:

  1. List down the ideas that emerge from the creative ideation phase on large charts of paper stuck around the room.
  2. Give each player 3 sticky dots of each color – that is, 3 blue, 3 yellow, 3 green. 9 dots per person is typical, but go ahead and reduce/increase that number based on the time at hand and number of ideas generated.
  3. Ask each player to step forward and vote for 3 best ideas in each category.  They need to do this by sticking a colored dot in front of each idea they choose.
  4. In the end, count the number of dots under each idea to categorize it. The highest number of dots of a certain color categorizes the idea under that color.
  5. In case of a tie:
    1. If blue dots = green dots, the idea is blue
    2. If  yellow dots = green dots, the idea is green
  6. You now have a bucket of Now/Green ideas to work on further. Make sure you also collect the low-hanging blue ideas for immediate implementation and the yellow ideas to keep an eye on for the future.

Note: Check your yellow dots in advance to ensure that they can be seen from a distance. If not, go ahead and replace them with another color. FYI, in the original matrix, WOW ideas are red.

Online How-Now-Wow Matrix

How-Now-Wow MatrixHere is another image of the How-Now-Matrix. But this one is special – clicking on this image will start an “instant play” game at In this game there are 20 light bulbs that you can drag on your matrix. We’ve organized this game into a set of regions that match the How-Now-Matrix described above. As you’re placing these items, use these regions to help you keep track of the most important ideas.

Keep in mind that that this is a collaborative game. This means that you can invite other players to play. And when they drag something around – you’ll see it in real time!

How-Now-Wow MatrixHere is another version that based on Martien van Steenbergen’s comments, in which he recommends flipping the y-axis.

The How-Wow-Now Matrix is adapted from work done by The Center for Development of Creative Thinking (COCD). Information about the COCD Matrix was published in the book, “Creativity Today” authored by Ramon Vullings, Igor Byttebier and Godelieve Spaas.

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7 Comments on “How-Now-Wow Matrix”

  1. 1 Martien van Steenbergen said at 7:53 am on January 6th, 2011:

    Great post! I really love the how-now-wow.

    From I psychological point of view, I prefer to flip the y-axis so that ease of implementation is in the upper half of the diagram.

    This way, the WOW! is in the upper-right corner of the matrix and is on the way up when you start at the origin (0, 0).

    See for an example.

    (Parts of the) stuff in the HOW quadrant can often be developed into the WOW!

  2. 2 Nitya Wakhlu said at 6:16 pm on January 7th, 2011:

    Yes, I can see how it would psychologically help to flipping the Y axis. Thanks so much for your feedback Martien.

  3. 3 Christine Martell said at 4:32 pm on January 8th, 2011:

    Great idea for keeping groups from developing least common denominator solutions. It can be frustrating to watch a group have dynamic creative ideas only to wash them all out in the convergence phase!

  4. 4 Deepika said at 1:43 am on January 10th, 2011:

    Thanks for the great idea! This would be interesting to experiment with in our next brainstorming session.

  5. 5 RG said at 5:28 am on January 27th, 2011:

    What a simple technique that is simply great! Thanks for sharing. I, too, would go with the axis flipping suggested by @martien

  6. 6 Andi Roberts said at 8:20 am on March 29th, 2011:

    Great 2 x 2 process.
    I would also swop the axis.
    Keen to know a name for the blank box that ends in w :-)

  7. 7 Recently read an appreciated : Medspel said at 4:29 am on May 30th, 2011:

    […] Gamestorming » Blog Archive » How-Now-Wow Matrix ( […]

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