Innovation and Design Thinking: Picking the Best Ideas

Introducing: Innovate! Inside the Box
October 31, 2013
Can Blackberry Dig Themselves Out of the Hole?
November 5, 2013

Innovation and Design Thinking: Picking the Best Ideas

Systematic methods of innovation and design will help you produce a pipeline of ideas. But this creates a new, maybe tougher problem for the practitioner: How do you pick the right ideas to work on? Filtering ideas is an essential part of the innovation process. You want to make sure you spend your time only those ideas with the most potential. Here's a sample of opinions from our student/practitioners on how to do it:

Systematic methods of innovation and design will help you produce a pipeline of ideas. But this creates a new, maybe tougher problem for the practitioner: How do you pick the right ideas to work on? Filtering ideas is an essential part of the innovation process. You want to make sure you spend your time only those ideas with the most potential.

Here’s a sample of opinions from our student/practitioners on how to do it:

  • Francis Milbower:

“The benefit that the idea brings forth must be evident from the onset” along with “an idea that is viewed as something that is more simplistic than the current product, process, or service.” This generated many examples of overly complicated solutions that failed.  In other words, the solution worked, but there were more elegant solutions to be found.”

  • Ranya Badawi

“If the idea introduces a significant change in the way we do something, it’s probably a winner. Also, the simplicity of an idea and its impactfulness will help make it a winner.”

  • Francisco Javier Zambonino Vázquez

“After the ideation stage I usually make people pick several ideas (at least 4) by following this scheme: preferred, rational, delighting and risky. The preferred idea is the one they would normally choose (according to familiarity). The rational one is instructed to be chosen by taking the role of their boss. What would your boss choose if he/she were here? The delighting idea should be chosen if wearing customer’s shoes. What do you think our customer would like us to implement regardless the cost and internal resources required for it? Finally the risky one tries to make them go beyond the comfortable zone and dare to pick something which may contain potential value even though their “right brain” does not like it very much.”

  • Haz Said

‘First, I like to narrowly/specifically define “win.” Then I like at least a little time to focus just on quantity–quantity of potential winning ideas. After that, winnowing the list with the help of a secret weapon or two (a barely verbal kid, a centenarian, someone from the prospective audience…). A cheat: how quickly can you give away 100 of the thing online. Real answer: a practiced gut.”

And from our Voice of the Practitioners?

  • Cindy: Does it show great empathy for the user that you are trying to serve? Is it new and different? Do I get that “tingle feeling?”
  • Elizabeth: Does it solve real problems in a defined marketplace?
  • Doug: Does it significantly change the way we do things today? A giant leap?
  • Sally: Does it fit the companies’ innovation strategy?
  • Mike: Does it fit the selection criteria set by the company from the beginning?

Could there be a way to asses an idea based on how it was invented? Do patterns predict success? Chip Vara thinks so.

“When the students come up with an idea for a product or service, I encourage them to determine which “innovation template” corresponds to their idea. I strongly suggest that if they can’t, their idea may not be innovative enough to pursue. For those that can associate one of the templates to their idea, I encourage them to apply one or more of the remaining templates to uncover other attrributes that may make their idea even more innovative.”

Perhaps a key benefit of selecting the right ideas is that they might move faster through the development process. The word, quality,means something different to everyone. Quality is not an attribute but a perception, and it relates to what we think, feel, relate, and view as important.

High quality ideas might in fact move faster through the Spiral Model. They create fewer obstacles in testing, evaluation, infringement, and so on. However as Francisco pointed out: “Ideas which people are more comfortable with are not likely to be the best ones.” As Paul Reader mentioned “Who decides that an idea has quality?” The Spiral Model taught in this course, like all models, attempts to clarify the process and help the innovation practitioner decide what quality actually means.

In the remaining weeks of the course, we will embrace an equally challenging question: “How do you spot problems worth solving?”

NOTE: If you like the discussion covered here, it is not too late to join the class. It is free, self-paced, and completely optional how you want to take the material. REGISTER!