How to Select the Best Ideas

This week’s show is a continuation of the series I’ve done on the innovation framework FIRE. We have discussed focus and ideation in previous shows. We will discuss the part of the innovation framework known as ranking, which helps you prioritize the best ideas you or your team generate.

Ranking

Innovation is about challenging an industry’s assumptions, questioning what we think we know about our customers, and being open to new ideas. When it comes to the framework, it is not the process. Instead, it defines the elements that you need to structure your process around. We use the FIRE framework. The focus area has to be defined or come up with ideas that aren’t impactful. Next is ideation, which is generating ideas. Ideation establishes the framework, and you can use whatever process you want to generate those ideas. The use of ranking is for identifying the best ideas out of the group. Ideas without execution are a hobby, and we are not in the hobby business.

So why is ranking so important? Let’s say management asks your team to come up with some new ideas. You write some things down on a flip chart, and someone types them up and emails them out. Typically, this method results in nothing, as there are too many broad ideas. Ranking helps you find the best ideas and zeroes you in on them.

Ranking Selection Process

The purpose of ranking is to identify the best ideas to execute and move forward. The first key to ranking is leveraging the wisdom of the crowd. First, make sure to select a diverse group of people who have had different experiences. I have my teams ideate and rank at the same time. I have found that you get the best results with a minimum of eight people. The key to ranking is to avoid bias by eliminating executive influence. Vote unanimously.

There are two types of ranking: dot voting (where you put a dot on the idea you think is most important), and criteria ranking (defined set of selection questions with some scoring structure). Dot voting is done within fifteen minutes and without talking. Each person gets four dots and places them wherever and however they want. Select the four to five ideas with the most dots and move forward with them.

Criteria Ranking

The first part of criteria ranking is to define the criteria. Firstly, you need to find the must-have elements of your idea. One way to do this is to look back on your products or services that were successful. Think about what questions you would have asked yourself to give you the ideas that led you to that successful product or idea. Secondly, you need to ask what elements your leadership team is going to look at. Your leadership team is going to be part of this, so you need to meet their criteria. It needs to be constrained and structured the right way with a small number of questions (4-6). I use five questions: the first three are the must-haves for the product’s success, and the bottom two are the questions that leadership will use to constitute success.

  • Question 1: Does this idea improve customer experience or expectations? Does it solve a problem, save money, create money, etc.?
  • Question 2: Does it fundamentally change the companies place competitively in the market?
  • Question 3: Does this idea radically change the economic structure of the industry? You’ll rarely have an idea that is a “yes” for all three.
  • Question 4: Does your company have a contribution to make?
  • Question 5: Will the idea generate a sufficient margin?

Score each question from zero to five, zero being a no, and five a resounding yes. You can apply this process by setting aside thirty minutes and assigning a value of 1-5 to each of your questions. Transfer your score to the team’s ranking board and total up the score.

The Best Ideas

Ranking is critical in making sure you are working on the right and best ideas. Let’s recap the key ideas of ranking. Firstly, leverage the wisdom of the crowd. Get a diverse team if you can. If you are a lone innovator, recruit some people you respect and bring them together to help you. You want a minimum of eight people, and you want to avoid bias within the group. Voting should be anonymous, so people feel like they can give honest and good feedback. Establish your criteria, which will help you make a selection that increases the likelihood of your success. Use the two types of ranking in conjunction (Dot and criteria). Trust the wisdom of the crowd and the criteria you have established. All of this fits into the FIRE framework, which is utilized by more than two thousand organizations.

If you are interested in learning more about ranking or want information from previous shows, check out all the free downloadable material I put together here.

Download FREE Resources on Ideation

To know more about ranking and prioritizing the best ideas, listen to this week’s show: How to Select the Best Ideas.

 

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