What’s a good idea look like?
Do you think you’ll recognize it when you see it?
Are you sure?
Most good ideas start out as bad ideas. They are infeasible. They look like they should be on your “never do” list. The engineers will tell you they are impossible.
Good ideas are often born from the marriage of bad ideas and hard work. – Tweet This
Turning Bad Ideas Into Good Ideas
This is going to be the foundation from which you are going to evaluate your ideas.
For each idea, you want to start by asking:
- Is this idea consistent with my vision?
- Does it help me make progress toward my goal?
These are your primary filters. You don’t want to do anything that isn’t consistent with your vision and you don’t want to do anything right now that doesn’t drive you toward your goal.
But don’t overdo it.
As you review each idea, your natural tendency is going to be to find the negative. Your brain is wired to criticize. You’ll first see why this idea won’t work. You want to actively counteract this.
- What’s good about this idea?
- How can I make this idea work?
- How can I make this idea consistent with my vision?
- How can this idea move me toward my goal?
- Can this idea be combined with others for greater effect?
Ignore the criticism and look for the good in each idea.
Now don’t get me wrong. Not every idea is going to be a good idea. But many bad ideas will turn into good ideas with a little bit of work. Make sure you do that work.
Don’t Work Alone
Groups are better than individuals at evaluating ideas. – Tweet This
We each bring a unique perspective and will see different merits in each idea. The more inclusive you are in the idea evaluation process, the better outcomes you’ll get.
This can be hard to manage. How do you wrangle everybody’s feedback?
There are many techniques you can use.
Voting with limited votes: Give each person in your organization a limited number of votes. Have them vote for the ideas they like the most. Allow people to stack their votes on one idea or spread them out across as many ideas as they like.
There is a lot of merit to this approach as it creates an idea market. Since votes are limited, people have to make thoughtful decisions about where to place their votes. A few academic studies have shown that idea markets are more effective for evaluating ideas than having an individual decide.
Rank-Order: Have each person rank-order the ideas. This forces participants to compare and contrast ideas making trade-offs between the different ideas.
This is an effective strategy as it forces people to consider each idea. However, it can be unmanageable for large sets of ideas.
Open Discussion: Encourage people to discuss the merits of each idea in an open meeting. You can have each person present their own ideas. Or you can separate ownership from presentation by having people present each others’ ideas.
This can lead to a lively discussion and uncover new criteria that may not be evident on first glance. However, it requires some facilitation skills to make sure that it doesn’t devolve into negativity or that the strongest personalities don’t dominate the conversation.
Don’t Undervalue the Power of Procedural Justice
Finally, no matter which process you choose, put a particular emphasis on being clear about your evaluation criteria and methods before you ask for ideas.
To keep people submitting ideas create a strong sense of procedural justice around how ideas get selected. – Tweet This
The more you engage people in the idea generation and evaluation process, the more involved they are going to be in the outcomes. They now have skin in the game.
If you think you have a hard time wrangling feedback and requests now, this process will only increase that volume.
Remember, it’s worth it. More ideas, lead to better ideas.
To help ensure that you aren’t spending all of your time telling people no, make sure that it is crystal clear to everyone how ideas will be evaluated. And stick to it.
People won’t like it when their ideas don’t get picked. But if you are clear about the process you will use and you stick with it, they will understand.
On Monday, we’ll look at a detailed example of how we implemented idea generation and evaluation at my last company. Don’t miss out. Subscribe to the Product Talk mailing list.