On selecting the winning innovation project
Invert your thinking.
As far as I know, we still haven't found a way to precisely predict the future. In other words, it's impossible to foretell which innovation project is going to be the next best thing after sliced bread.
Still, that doesn't mean that you should be throwing money at anything that smells remotely innovative. I advise you to flip your thinking around, and focus on seeing the red flags that indicate which projects are highly unlikely to lead to anything.
Here is a simple checklist, based on assessing hundreds of innovation projects:
- Is there a clear description of who is this idea for, and how will is it beneficial to both the intended customer and the business?
- Does the perceived impact of the idea match with the organisation's ambition levels?
- Is there a clear rationale of how will this idea contribute to the organisation's strategic objectives? If not, is there a good explanation of why should it be entertained?
- Is there a clearly defined objective, as well as a set of intermediary objectives and measures? Are they based on data and evidence? Are they actionable?
- Is there a sound plan for moving this idea forward? Does it include the riskiest assumptions and how will they be investigated?
- Does it name real people, with real responsibilities? Are these people the right people to bring this idea to the market and make it a success? Do they have the right mix of motivation, skills and business acumen?
- Does the project as a whole make sense?
In any case, should the team struggle to provide solid arguments to above questions, you have two options:
- Allow them to work on the answers, without giving them any resources except their work time. I.e., allow the person proposing to spend 20-30 hours to answer the above questions.
- Politely reject the idea. Explain to proposer why it was rejected. If it's good it'll come back.
Above questions are relevant for any idea that requires serious investment. If you are dealing with immature* ideas, then your first question should be who is it for, and what is it about.
Your questions are your filters. Don't waste time prioritising ideas that don't get through.
*If you are interested in learning more about innovation maturity I suggest following:
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