By: Rob Hoehn
One of the most popular webinars that IdeaScale has ever hosted is our webinar on how to select the best ideas. We are constantly being asked by our customers and prospects, “how do I know a good idea when I see one?” Some people are looking for financial predictions, some people want to know how an idea measures up to their organizational objectives, but everyone is looking for the perfect set of criteria so that they can evaluate ideas at some point during the innovation process and validate them.
What we’ve found is that there’s an infinite number of criteria types, but they’re all helping organizations decide on four essential things: is the idea desirable? Is it viable? Is it vettable? And is it feasible? I thought I’d share a bit more about how to evaluate ideas against those four criteria here.
Desirable. Whole industries have popped up to determine the desirability of new concepts. Design thinking and customer empathy – putting the end user or consumer at the center of any problem to be solved – this is all about divining whether or not an idea is desirable. It’s also one of the easiest criteria to evaluate (in theory). Start by just asking. In IdeaScale, many of our customers use voting to determine whether an idea is desirable, but you could also ask people to volunteer their time to explore their concept or rank it in comparison to other ideas or use scenario based study to explore the idea in context. Whatever method you use, however, an idea that doesn’t demonstrate desirability is not one that is going to gain mass adoption.
Viable. The best ideas can be backed by research and can muster a team or resources ready to work on them. This means, for example, if you want to work on a new type of technology then that technology has to exist and you have to access to it. You have to understand how it works and you have to have the capacity to work on it. So, for example, if you’re going to launch a project related to blockchain, you have to source or find some experts in it to really find out if it’s right for your organization. This sort of decision can be super easy (maybe even pass/fail because you do or do not have some things in place (“well, we can’t launch in Germany because of the regulations there” for example) or it can be a deeper dive into some ongoing research to find out what’s possible now or in the future.
Vettable. The sad fact of the matter is that an organization that doesn’t have the appetite to solve certain problems or explore certain fields of play…. then it probably won’t see the light of day. Vettable ideas align with some aspect of the business… or at least have to be able to demonstrate their relationship to it. This is a great place to use company values or its mission to determine whether an idea is a good fit for the organization. Ideas that don’t initially seem to fit can sometimes demonstrate a strong relationship to the stated goals of decision makers.
Feasible. This is when decision-making gets granular. How much will it cost? How much do we stand to gain? How do you know what to test, what to build? What are the fail points that you should explore and observe? Lots of ideas that appeal to ideators and decision makers don’t stand up to the rigors of a feasibility analysis.
Obviously, each of these categories offers a myriad of options in terms of how to assess and evaluate each criteria type, but most innovation processes incorporate all of these at some point in their decision making process.
About the author
Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.