Far too often I’ve sat in brainstorming sessions where ideas died a slow death afterwards. Ideas alone are not innovation; without a process of evaluation, selection and execution, they remain mere ideas.
Brainstorming sessions and idea challenges have become commonly used corporate innovation initiatives. In ideation sessions, a higher quantity of ideas are encouraged in order to get to the truly breakthrough ideas. However, if you’re the Innovation Manager collating hundreds of ideas at the culmination of such an initiative, how do you choose the best ideas to carry through to implementation?
Before we delve into some tried and tested methods for evaluating ideas, let’s look at what not to do.
· Don’t consider the idea’s projected revenue, return on investment (ROI) or net present value (NPV). Managers shouldn’t place too much emphasis on financial metrics for early stage ideas because most of the assumptions underpinning ideas are yet to be determined.
· Don’t jump ahead to execution and think about the logistics of the idea. Again, the concepts have yet to be tested. Instead, consider how well the idea solves the problem at hand.
· Don’t use resource or budget constraints as an excuse not to explore the ideas. Although not all ideas can be tested immediately, resource constraints can be an effective way to challenge teams to prototype ideas with less budget.
Method 1 - Ask the right questions at the right times
Scott Anthony, managing partner of Innosight and author of The First Mile: A Launch Manual for Getting Great Ideas into the Market, uses a set of criteria to decide whether to explore an idea more deeply.
Here are some of the key questions to ask:
Asking these questions helps to make the second decision about whether to run experiments to address the key underlying assumptions. Anthony then asks the following questions:
Method 2- Identifying the greatest JTBD
Jobs-to-be-Done innovation theory (JTBD) is the subject of Professor Clayton Christensen’s latest book, Competing Against Luck. The central idea behind JTBD is that customers are not buying your products but rather, “they are hiring them to get a job done.”
Check out ourFuture Squared podcast interview with Christensen’s co-author Karen Dillon for more insight into this.
In the case of evaluating ideas using the JTBD method, idea assessment is a function of how important the job is and how satisfied customers are with existing solutions. One way to measure the importance and existing satisfaction of an idea or ‘job’ is by asking customers for their ratings on a Likert scale. As shown by the exhibit below, these responses can then be plotted and categorized as over-served, served right, or underserved.
In general, under-served outcome expectations are high-priority and are best addressed with a strategy of making the solution better. Over-served outcome expectations lead you to make existing solutions simpler, cheaper, and more available to more people. If the outcome expectations are served right, don’t do anything; focus instead on the other outcome expectations.
Method 3- Idea Selection for Groups
If you’re facilitating an ideation workshop and have mapped out lots of ideas onto flip charts, here are some methods we have used at Collective Campus to whittle down the best ideas.
Each person is given five dot stickers that they can allocate to 5 different ideas. As a group, participants place the stickers next to their favourite ideas. The ideas with the most stickers are progressed. While this method is quick and energetic, there is a chance that some of the more obscure ideas may be overlooked. Their potential may be developed if they are discussed. Another possible drawback is that in controversial or political situations, participants may be inhibited or influenced by the opinions of others.
Another method is for individuals to write their favourite ideas on slips of paper using concept called ‘working alone together’ before sharing them with the group. This method can circumvent ‘group think’ where participants converge towards similar ideas to avoid conflict. This approach also minimises the chance of individuals being influenced by the more dominant opinions or personalities in the room. While no discussion takes place during the ballot, group discussion of the ideas can begin once the ideas have been prioritised.
Where to From Here
This report draws on our work driving change at large companies as well as from thought leadership in the space of not just management literature, but also evolutionary biology, psychology and sociology, because in order to see things clearly and influence human behaviour, we need to think holistically.