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Three things to keep in mind if you want to pick the right idea to pursue


Paint swatches

Imagine someone on your team reads an article on how color affects moods and productivity. So the team decides to paint the office blue and green in order to increase efficiency. The boss buys the paint & pizza and Friday afternoon is spent slapping paint on the wall. Great idea, right?

Even assuming this article's advice is accurate, is paint the best option?

There may be other, potentially better ways to change office colors:

  • Wallpaper

  • Color-changing lights

  • Projected color

  • Photographs or art

And if we think a bit deeper, the team is probably less concerned about color and more interested in increasing efficiency. Better ways to increase efficiency may include:

  • Remote work options

  • Better organizational structure

  • Training

  • Improved office layout

  • Process rationalization

But none of these other options were discussed or considered. The team was excited and wanted to get it done. That's because

The rush to pursue an idea often leaves out better solutions.

I've seen this happen time and time again in innovation efforts.

Sometimes clients push us down the wrong path. We earnestly ask them what they want us to develop and they typically say something like "The same thing we buy today. Just cheaper, faster, more durable." And we deliver... only to lose market share when something new & different comes along.

Or sometimes they tell us the solution they want developed because it's the only solution they can think of. Essentially "give us green paint" instead of "make us more efficient." And when we develop that green paint, it doesn't sell because it doesn't provide intrinsic value.

Other times we (figuratively) shoot ourselves in the foot. We develop a solution to an ill-defined problem and then are shocked when nobody buys it. Or we cling to our existing expertise and ignore other options because we seek comfort and certainty... only to be disrupted by an untraditional or unknown competitor.

A key point to consider when it comes to innovation: It's not about the idea

Ideas are great. Ideas are important. But selecting the right idea that satisfies the right problem is critical.

Here are a few things you can do to improve the way you select the right ideas and opportunities for your organization:

  1. Understand the challenge (or 'job to be done' according to Dr. Christensen) you aim to satisfy

  2. Have a robust process to assess ideas - from technical, commercial, cultural, resource, and strategic perspectives

  3. Keep an eye on your portfolio - is there a balance of incremental and disruptive innovation projects?

This just scratches the surface. But it's a good place to start.

What do you think?

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