The innovation process can generate a myriad of ideas—in fact, it usually results in more ideas than could reasonably be acted upon. One of the more difficult challenges we’re often tasked with is deciding which ideas to move forward with and which ones to discard. How do you determine when to take an idea from a vision to a reality? We’ve outlined some techniques you might use to evaluate your ideas below.
Create an “Idea Bank”
Before narrowing down the ideas you’d like to advance with, consider cataloging all the creative output from this series of innovations. Not only will this help you eliminate duplicate ideas, it will also help prevent you from losing valuable work product that might come in handy for another project down the road. “Banked” ideas can, among other things, be re-purposed as thought-starters for brainstorming sessions and ideations. Keep the Idea Bank open and accessible to all employees within your organization—encourage them to re-visit and flesh out concepts on an ongoing basis. Your Idea Bank can serve as a perpetual laboratory for innovation and concept development.
Solicit Internal Feedback
Break down the “silos” within your organization and make your innovation product visible to the other departments early on in the innovation process. Solicit feedback from outside of the marketing and creative departments, including such areas as research and development, finance and manufacturing. Ask for their input at this stage of the innovation process. Is there something they would tweak to make a concept easier to manufacture? Are there areas that need to be firmed up to make a product more financially viable? Obtain buy-in from a broad range of constituents within the organization before advancing with a concept. Bringing a new product to market will necessitate their cooperation and input, and therefore vetting your ideas through their various perspectives could prove invaluable.
Amplify Your Consumer Testing
One of the common hurdles we encounter when we ask consumers to evaluate new ideas is their resistance to the unfamiliar. What can we do to break down their initial apprehension and encourage them to embrace novelty? Try creating a fully immersive experience for the consumer by thinking of your ideas as already existing in the world. What does this world look like? What does it smell like? Who lives there? Develop mood boards with vivid imagery, colors and textures that stimulate consumer’s senses, play music in the background, light a scented candle, serve food and drinks—bring the world of the idea to life! You’ll diminish consumers’ initial resistance by giving them familiar and tangible contexts to associate with a new idea.
Find the Balance Between Gut Instinct and Metrics
Some of the best ideas are generated from little more than a gut feeling. But, obtaining the go-ahead from your organization on the basis of such an instinct alone can be difficult. Organizations often require ideas or concepts to test well before advancing further with them. Unfortunately, such a rigid reliance on metrics can allow some truly great ideas to fall through the cracks. How do you balance an organization’s desire to meet certain quantitative goals with the need to follow your gut? Aim to give your organization some perspective by looking at past case studies of concepts that became successful opportunities. How many of these concepts didn’t test as well as you would have liked but went on to provide value in the marketplace? What, if any, other indicators did these concepts have that might have predicted their ultimate success? When evaluating ideas to move forward with, remember to leave room for ideas guided by a strong vision and backed by instinct to flourish, whether or not they’ve proven their mettle through metrics.
The Second Time Is the Charm
Give old ideas new life by re-visiting them and re-evaluating their marketplace potential periodically. An idea that didn’t work out the first time around is not necessarily a poor concept it might simply be a victim of poor timing. The marketplace is constantly changing to adapt to the needs and demands of consumers. A need that might not have existed when a concept first came to light might now be a pressing one that that concept addresses. For example, we take cameras in our smartphones for granted nowadays, but that wasn’t always the case. Organizations explored the idea of adding a camera to the PDAs of the early 2000s (Palm Pilots, etc.), but ultimately passed on the idea. Today, it’s hard to conceive of a smartphone not having such technology. The idea of adding a camera was always a good one, but it needed the marketplace and technology to mature for it to find the right fit and be successfully implemented.
Criteria Are Key
Without the right tests, great ideas generated during the innovation process will die. To assess an idea’s viability, it’s essential to establish techniques for evaluation that allow you to decide what ideas should move on to the next level. With the proper criteria in place, your organization will not just generate copious ideas during the innovation process; it will also harness their full potential as marketplace opportunities.
In the innovation space we often say that generating ideas is the easy part. Developing processes to manage the wealth of new thinking and how best to prioritize opportunities is most critical to the successful innovation.
What are some the techniques that you’ve developing for effectively prioritizing your innovation opportunities?