Making the decision to utilise an innovation tool is half the battle for companies. They must also decide, once they have ideas, which ones are the best ones to approve and carry out, which is a process that can be particularly daunting. Part of our job is to advise companies on best practices for implementation of their innovation tool and help get them started on creating a process for selecting ideas.
While obviously it’s going to depend on a company’s goals and objectives, there are four starting indicators of a great idea:
1. Does it have a lot of support? An easy way to weed out the good ideas not only about your products or services, but also about your working environment is to look at what has the most support. Noticing support for an idea may be difficult. Sometimes in busy offices, an idea is pitched in a meeting, maybe jotted down, and then, unless a company wide vote or email is held, the broad support of the idea isn’t necessarily known. With the proper innovation tool, employees should have the ability to vote an idea up or down, comment on it, and nurture it’s development. Whether the idea is for a new refrigerator for the break room or for a new help desk system for your website, broad support within your company provides a launch pad. You’ll know if cultivating a new product or idea will improve company morale, if you’ll have a lot of support staff to work on the idea before you have to hire people specifically for it, or even if you’ll have beta testers for a new feature. Measuring support is a great way to sort out what ideas you should prioritise.
2. Does it have a timescale? If you have limited resources, it makes a lot more sense to focus on five great ideas or products that will take you a month or less to fully implement, than to focus on even a really great idea or product that could take years for you to see the fruits of labour. Think about the time it will take the implement the idea before falling in love with the concept and the glamour of the finish line. If the idea doesn’t have a predictable timeline, then you may wish to focus on those ideas that do, or encourage your employees to think about the timeline of their ideas when they submit them. Whether you choose to focus on long term or short term ideas really depends on your business and resources, but taking an honest look at timescales will at least allow you to narrow down your possibilities.
3. Has it already been done before? That sounds a bit silly, but the old saying about monkeys, typewriters, and Shakespeare is true. If you have a great idea to improve an aspect of your business or introduce a new product feature, there may be a chance that it’s already been done before. Often within closed office meetings, when we have these great ideas, we’re not involving all employees, and thus we may lose a crucial perspective on the idea. Maybe someone has the idea that they want a social sharing feature on a product that uses a specific code and with an innovation tool, an employee who has experience using that code and installing a similar feature steps forward and offers to help or points you in a direction of where to find others that may be able to help even better than they can. A company without an innovation tool may find themselves doing the same work others have already done within or outside of their companies.
4. How dedicated is the staff – or you? It’s all well and good to suggest an idea, but more likely than not, someone will have to take that idea and walk it from infancy into adulthood. If the employee who introduced an idea in a meeting isn’t set up to take it further, you may have to take it over, or appoint someone else. Sometimes this becomes a recipe for disaster and it’s usually how people end up saddled with work projects they complain about in the pub later. Create an environment that allows employees to either easily ask for other people to take the idea up or they take responsibility it for themselves. Ask them to think about their idea and develop a process of suggesting one that makes them think about contributions without being wholly responsible for it.
While there are a lot of other metrics and considerations you can apply towards narrowing down your idea stream, these four basics can get you started. The best place to recognise and analyse all of the ideas within your company is within the proper innovation tool and that tool should provide you with multiple ways of measuring, analysing, and making the idea happen.
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Simon Hill is CEO and co-founder of Wazoku, an idea software company, an Associate Director with the Venture Capital Firm FindInvestGrow and an active member of the London technology and entrepreneurial community.