Innovation is as much about choosing what not to do as it is about deciding what you’re going to do.
I’ll never forget the words of a client of mine, an executive at PepsiCo: “We can do anything, but we can’t do everything,” he said to me. So true. But most companies forget this fact. They try to do everything, and then don’t do anything very well.
In today’s disruptive world where new technology and business models drive dramatic change overnight, companies large and small struggle with the same thing: prioritization. When it comes to what to focus on, the process of getting focus either slows companies to a screeching halt or sends people chasing after ideas that should have been killed long ago.
Choose the Best & Ditch the Rest
I’ve had the opportunity to lead strategic innovation programs with some of the biggest B2B and B2C brands on earth including Arcelor Mittal (the largest steel company in the world), Hershey (the iconic chocolate company), NBCUniversal (the media giant) and Cigna (the global insurance powerhouse). When it comes to choosing the best ideas to pursue, the formula I’ve used across these diverse companies is consistent and simple: Choose the best and ditch the rest.
Prioritize and Map Your Idea Portfolio
The best way to prioritize is to get a sense of the relative opportunity and the risk of your portfolio of potential ideas. Prioritizing early on gets you moving faster.
The single best prioritization tool closest to my heart is the Idea Prioritization and Portfolio Mapper. I’ve used a version of this Excel spreadsheet tool for years. It’s powerful because teams can build it out collaboratively together, which creates alignment and accelerates action. It’s easy to use:
- List your ideas
- Score ideas using specific criteria
- View results in a portfolio map
The best ideas rise to the top. Bad ideas remain at the bottom. Simple.
Different teams need different criteria to select ideas based on what they’re doing. Modify your scoring criteria to emphasize whatever is most important. But be diligent and don’t fall into the “everything scores high” trap. Force distributions in scores to ensure a balanced portfolio view of your ideas.
Most teams and organizations keep piling it on without taking anything off. Prioritizing ideas will indeed get you better innovations faster, but it may also give you something even more precious – your life back.
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Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award-winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an affiliated professor at USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, a former corporate executive, and a co-founder of UpBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.