It used to be popular for organisations to have a suggestions box for staff and customer improvement ideas. Occasionally, someone would open the box and follow up on suggestions. Occasionally, a really good idea would take off. In a digital world there are lots of virtual suggestion boxes for customers – probably less of them for employees. There are also lots of ideas from managers – for new products and services changes to organisational structures or for new software and hardware. How do we make sense of them? Is this a good idea?
The obvious answer is to evaluate ideas when they emerge to determine if it is worthwhile to invest time and money in them. There are several ways to do this including:
- A simple Pass/Fail test e.g. will the idea help us reach a goal? will it cost less than $X? Can we implement it in less than x months?
- A Pros and Cons analysis i.e. you list the reasons for the idea alongside the reasons against it and perform a comparative analysis.
- An Evaluation Checklist whereby you assess each idea against a set of criteria. Ideally, there would only be 5-6 criteria and a 3 or 5 point scale. I have seen matrices that have 30-50 criteria and 10 point scales. The term “paralysis by analysis” comes to mind.
- A Four Quadrant Matrix like the Boston Consulting Group growth share matrix of stars, cash cows, question marks and dogs. This could use axes of your choosing but a suggested approach is provided below.
There is another point of view to consider. Should you leap directly from idea generation to evaluation? Should you explore ideas a little more before you try to pre-qualify or assess them? Could you do scenario planning where you imagine that the idea has been adopted and envision where that could lead? How about some creative thinking (De Bono-like) approaches? Would it be better to talk to customers first? Are there other stakeholders who could provide valuable perspectives? Ideas are exciting but most don’t make it to market. There is no perfect recipe for success so be open to new approaches.