How to identify and evaluate good ideas

Have you ever rejected an idea only to regret it later? If you answered in the affirmative, you’re not alone. Most organizations have sometime or the other made this mistake—often choosing a less innovative idea over a potentially innovative one. Driving organizational innovation depends on identifying and evaluating good ideas, even the ones that are deceivingly so. However, every innovative thought leader faces the dilemma of selecting the best among a volley of ideas resulting from her or his organization’s innovation process. So how do you overcome this challenge and develop a robust idea review process? Here are a few criteria you should consider to select good ideas for your business.

1. Check for clarity: Fewer the assumptions the better

Businesses need a clarity of purpose to thrive. Similarly, clarity is the essence of great ideas. If you’re an innovation leader boggled with an onslaught of ideas, use Occam’s razor as the first checkpoint for filtering them. It’s a principle that the business world often borrows from philosophy. According to Occam’s razor, if there are two explanations for a situation, the simplest is usually the right one. When you apply this principle to ideas, check which ones are based on the fewest assumptions. The lesser the unknowns in an idea, the safer you are from surprises later on. Take Post-It notes for example. Could any idea be simpler? It was a simple product idea created to solve a problem and is now generating billions in revenue.

2. Evaluate the usability and practicality of the ideas

Practicality, feasibility, and desirability are the basic premises of innovation. For every idea, you come across, ask these questions: Is it utilitarian? Does it solve a particular problem? Does it satisfy a practical need? Does it fit a market niche? Does it meet a specific market demand? It’s easy to make a choice when you have answers to these questions.  

3. Determine if the ideas have market stability

What good do antiquated ideas do? Innovation isn’t just about creating new ideas on a whim. It’s about making a tried and tested contribution that stays. For an idea to be truly successful, consider innovation as a discipline and not a fad. Is the idea here to stay? Is it a solution to a unique but one-time demand? Will it have market stability over time or fade away like any other fad? If you’re dealing with ideas that are a very temporary solution to an even short-lived problem, be cautious of selecting them.

4. Find out if they are scalable or are one-time wonders

The growth of a business, as well as a product, is directly proportional to scalability. Having the answers to these questions might help: Will you be able to scale the prototypes? Can they be produced in multiple cycles without the need for reinvention or adjustment? Can they be consistently replicated? Will they meet continuous standards? Go ahead with the ideas that earn a “yes” to all your questions on scalability. Uber is an epitome of a scalable idea. They’re solving transportation and mobility issues in various geographies across the world. If the ideas you’re dealing with are one-time wonders, proceed with caution.

5. Ask if they have what it takes to become a trend

While the usability of an idea adds to its stickiness quotient, its emotional appeal also has a role in making it a habit or a trend. Can your idea become a product that creates a sense of necessity among its customers? Facebook and Uber are classic examples of ideas that have become a “habit” for their customers. How many times do you fire up these apps every day? Exactly!

6. Evaluate their alignment with your company’s core values

Innovative thought leaders often come across wonderful ideas and out-of-the-box, out-of-the-world prototypes. But their lack of integration with the organizational strategy takes away the charm of their market viability. Among the companies that keep their core values on the deciding board for identifying and selecting ideas is Adobe. They choose ideas that allow them to stay genuine, stay involved, and be innovative and exceptional. Select ideas that can be integrated or, at least, have a scope of integration with your company’s overall business strategy.

7. Gauge the revenue opportunity and profitability of the ideas

In the end, it all boils down to money. Usually, how an idea translates to a company’s overall profitability is one of the key criteria for choosing or rejecting a potential product idea. However, as an innovation leader, you’ll have to find a fine balance between an idea’s earning potential and all the other six factors mentioned above. Did you say Apple?

Driving innovation is challenging but rewarding. Use these tips to find and evaluate ideas from your pool of creativity. May the best idea win!


About the Author

Vivek Siva
Learned what not to do as an entrepreneur. An optimist with a love for business, the outdoors, and movies. Superpower: Ability to smile even when all hell breaks loose. Affiliation: World of witchcraft & wizardry