Sorting through Ideas: Challenges and Opportunities

Crumpled up paper and lightbulb.
Set up idea criteria to help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

If innovation were easy, we wouldn’t need to create teams of talented individuals and task them with working at it. In fact, innovation is full of challenges and pitfalls. You can waste a lot of time, energy, and money going down the wrong roads. What kind of idea criteria can help you stay on track with your company’s innovation strategy?

Regardless of whether your field is crowded with competition or you’re in a niche market, your idea criteria will depend somewhat on your business. 

You know the first step in innovation is brainstorming, coming up with ideas and sorting through them as good, bad, feasible, possible, impossible and many more categories. Some categories may seem obvious, but remember that the key to innovation is to change your thinking. Try not to immediately dismiss an idea you’ve considered before because you didn’t like it then. Likewise, don’t always choose to fund just your own pet ideas. 

How do you set up idea criteria in a meaningful way?

Work Backwards

IdeaScale recommends starting at the end. In much the same way that you may get stuck doing a maze and then gain clarity by bringing your pencil to the end and going backward, it can be helpful to spell out your end goals before evaluating an idea. 

For instance, let’s use an example from personal life to illustrate the point. Suppose you want to buy a car. There are thousands of cars for sale every day in any given city. How can you decide which one you want?

One easy way to narrow it down is to set an acceptable price range. Beyond this, of course, everyone wants a safe car. Everyone wants an attractive car. Taking a minute to look at your end goal can save you lots of wasted time.

Person checking a smiley face on a review document.
Evaluate each idea to get the best picture of the possibilities each holds.

Ask yourself why you want the car. Do you need a car to get back and forth to work? Then it’s important the car be reliable and practical. It doesn’t matter too much if the body is dented. 

Do you want the car to drive for a ride-share service? Then it has to be clean and presentable, with no stains or rips. Will you only drive the car to church once a week? Then you don’t need a 4×4. Will you need it to haul lumber for your home improvement projects? Then, don’t look at Mini Coopers. 

Making these determinations ahead of time will save you heartache down the road. It’s easy to fall in love with a BMW convertible, but if you live in Maine and you’re broke, this purchase is a bad idea.

Idea Criteria

When evaluating ideas, you’ll want each serious contender to be:

  • Desirable
  • Viable
  • Vettable
  • Feasible. 

Two or three out of four isn’t good enough for innovation. If your idea is desirable but not feasible, it’s not an idea; it’s a fantasy. Some fantasies can become realities, but most don’t.

As you are evaluating each idea for these four qualities, assign a number to each — 1 to 3, 1 to 10 or another range that works for you. For instance, how desirable is the idea? Incredibly desirable? 10. Sort of desirable? 4. 

This way, when you finish evaluating the idea criteria, you have some hard data to help you make your decisions. 

Want an easy, step-by-step guide to idea criteria evaluation? Download IdeaScale’s free infographic.  For more information about an idea management platform that can help, request a demo today. 

Comments are closed.