How to Sort and Score Innovation Ideas

A disciplined approach to evaluating innovation ideas is necessary.

Group of colleagues sitting around a table discussing a project.

Companies have to move forward in an era of rapid technological change, and innovations are often the key to staying ahead of the competition by developing new products, processes, and business models. Evaluating the innovative ideas people put forward is necessary to ensure success, but it can be a big undertaking.

It’s possible to get so bogged down in evaluation spreadsheets and PowerPoint documents that decision-making is needlessly slow without necessarily being more informed. Winning innovations are those that bring together viability, feasibility, and desirability, but it’s not always easy to pick these out from a large batch of ideas. Here are some popular methods to sort and score innovation ideas, and ways you can use innovation management software to manage those methods. 

Narrow Down the Candidates with Pass-Fail Evaluation

If you’re lucky enough to have a large pool of innovation ideas from which to choose, you probably won’t have time to give each of them significant, focused attention. A simple pass-fail evaluation can be a good way to narrow down the field to something more manageable. One way to protect against bias is to have multiple people assign “pass” or “fail” to all the ideas and to pursue those that have the most “pass” votes. 

Use an Evaluation Matrix to Identify Most Promising Innovations

An evaluation matrix assigns numerical scores – typically 0 to 5 – to various characteristics of innovation ideas. Each evaluator assigns a rank for how well an idea meets pre-defined criteria and is asked to provide comments explaining their ratings and suggesting ways weaknesses may be overcome. Ultimately, each evaluator assigns a single score to each idea based on the criteria, and ideas with the highest scores can proceed to a more intensive round of evaluation.

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SWOT Analysis Helps You Gauge How Realistic Candidate Innovations Are

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and it makes a good follow-up to evaluation matrix use. One way to do it is to assign zero to five points for strengths and opportunities ideas offer, while taking away zero to five points for weaknesses and threats. Ideas that end up with the highest scores can make up a short list of innovation ideas that are worthy of serious consideration.

Follow-Up Evaluation Helps You Find the Best Candidates for Development

By this stage, you should have a manageable number of innovation ideas, each of which can be assigned follow-up action such as the creation of a business case, development of a working prototype, or a test marketing evaluation. Once these in-depth evaluations take place, you can feel confident you are moving forward with the most promising ideas. 

Innovation management software is the key to putting innovative ideas into a virtual funnel and extracting only the most promising ones. It saves time and helps keep evaluator bias to a minimum. Particularly with large organizations, an innovation initiative may produce a huge number of ideas, and innovation management software helps ensure that they all get a fair chance, without evaluators being overwhelmed with the evaluation process. 

IdeaScale, the maker of innovation management software that has been used all over the world to manage innovation, offers a 20-minute webinar on the topic of how to evaluate ideas, and you’re invited to watch it at any time. If you’re interested in product innovation, we invite you to download our Crowdsourcing to Innovate Products white paper.

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