How to Refine an Idea

Ideas are easy. But how do you execute them?

OK, you’ve got a great idea, but do you know how to refine an idea? It quickly becomes clear with innovation management that coming up with the idea is just the beginning of the process. How do you turn the ore of a great idea into the gold of a finished concept, product, or service?

Where Are You Starting from?

First, take a look at the gap between the idea and where you are currently. Some ideas are ambitious and may take a lot of effort for you to reach. Other ideas can be as simple as tweaking a few lines of code or putting an extra polish on a part. So, look at where you are, and then ask yourself where you have to be to pull off this idea.

What Are the Challenges?

Another factor is that even a modest idea can have challenges. Some of these will be obvious; if you’re adding a new page to your website, for example, you know you’ll have to fit it to your style guide, program the feature in JavaScript or HTML 5, and do quality assurance on it until you’re absolutely sure it’s not going to break, at least most of the time and in any reasonable test case. Sit down with the stakeholders who the idea touches, and ask them what challenges they see and ways to overcome those challenges. And don’t forget to leave room for unexpected challenges; sometimes a test of your innovation will be overcoming those, and you can’t anticipate every single problem with even simple ideas.

How do you get from concept to execution?

Who Is Your Team?

No brilliant idea goes from concept to execution without an entire team behind it. Tens or even hundreds of minds contributed their own brilliant ideas to everything from the phone in your pocket to the lunch on your plate. Your team should have the tools it needs while being nimble enough to roll with the challenges it may be faced with and should draw from those most affected by the execution of the idea.

What Are the Steps?

Another question worth asking is how many steps you see yourself taking. Bold ideas, in particular, might require a long set of milestones to reach. Say, for example, you want to turn your factory into a completely green, zero-waste facility. That’s not a matter of slapping a bunch of solar panels on the roof, planting a few bushes, and signing a few new waste contracts. You might start by examining your power needs and determining what green power you can generate on site, versus what you might want to buy with contracts. Doing away with your waste will involve looking at how you dispose of waste now, what kind of waste you need to dispose of, and which technologies make the most sense for your needs. You can absolutely reach the goal, but any task is easier broken down into a set of simple steps.

As you can see, refining ideas can be far more intensive than coming up with them. But ideas are just the beginning of innovation. It’s the execution of your ideas that separates the leaders from the imitators. When you’re ready to turn ideas to reality, contact us.

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