Innovation management: How to prioritize, filter and plan ideas

Once you have set up an integrated innovation framework and trained your employees in innovation tools and processes, they're going to generate a lot of ideas. What are you going to do with them? If you don't have a prioritization or "screening" process, you run the risk of being overloaded by poor quality ideas which may "jam" up your idea management system. Having a business-focused, structured prioritization process is central to the successful implementation of an integrated innovation framework within any business.

Once you have set up an integrated innovation framework and trained your employees in innovation tools and processes, they’re going to generate a lot of ideas. What are you going to do with them? If you don’t have a prioritization or “screening” process, you run the risk of being overloaded by poor quality ideas which may “jam” up your idea management system. Having a business-focused, structured prioritization process is central to the successful implementation of an integrated innovation framework within any business.

V-SAFE screening

The function of any screening process is to quickly and efficiently weed out those ideas and innovations that do not meet your basic selection criteria. As a standard you should look at:

Value: Does the idea deliver tangible benefits to the organisation? What is the Return on Innovation Investment (RoII) figure? What is the net contribution to current business imperatives? These questions help eliminate ideas that are good in theory but add little to the bottom-line.

Suitable: Is the idea consistent with strategy and the current situation? This weeds-out potential “distractions” – always a risk when looking at innovations.

Acceptable: Will stakeholders support it? Often ideas fail because of the “not invented here” syndrome or office politics. It is crucial that proponents of an idea spend time and effort on selling the idea internally and gauging the level of support for it.

Feasible: Are there sufficient resources or time? Can the innovation be managed within existing budgets or will additional funding be required? Do you need to acquire new skills to implement this idea effectively? The answers to these questions will affect the timeline for implementation and the potential ROI calculation. See it as a reality check.

Enduring: Will the idea deliver value in both the long and short term? If a new idea or innovation is to be truly strategic it should survive the rigors of time. Is the long-term gain worth the short-term pain of bringing a new idea to fruition? Again this highlights the return on the investment to be made.

To effectively use any screening process it has to be easily understood by all submitting ideas, publicised for all to see, standardised as a template and never, never short-circuited without good reason! Ideas should be viewed within a portfolio and not in isolation as prioritising ideas and innovations is all about relative merit and the battle for resources and time.

Innovations into actions

Anyone sitting on an Innovation Review Board (IRB) should know what the options are for any idea coming before them. In short you need to prioritize as follows:

1. GO: The idea has merit, meets all criteria and should move forward. The GO ideas can further be prioritized:

a. BAU: Feed the idea into “business as usual” and implement

b. JDI: ”Just do it!” Run with it now

c. PROJECT: This needs full planning and resourcing and needs to be a project in itself

2. NO GO: Thanks but no thanks! Give a clear, objective reason why the idea should not move forward and discard accordingly.

3. MODIFY: The idea has merit but needs to address some of the V-SAFE criteria issues – resubmit at next IRB.

4. WAIT: If market conditions change then this idea may be valid. Hold for review.

Project Leaders International (PLI) and its technology partner, SofTools, are world leaders in the area of innovation and innovation management. For more information, please contact simon.derry@project-leaders.net.

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