What is the value of an idea?

What is the value of an idea? A billion or zero? I have been thinking about this question a lot lately. A good idea can transform a whole industry. In any organisation you will constantly encounter ideas from many different people but which ones should you pursuit? Smart companies usually have some sort of filtering process where the most qualified ideas are being developed. But an idea can also be bad. In the worst case following the wrong idea can bankrupt you. Look at Nokia betting on their Symbian system. Or Kodak, betting on their idea for printed pictures. So what is a good idea?

It is actually hard to say what a good idea is. Sometimes a good idea can be ahead of its time or a new idea can be to complex to execute on. From my experience the best ideas come from careful analysis. A combination of three things, numbers, user behaviour and innovation. The idea can although start at any of these points. It does not have o start in numbers, you can have seen a competitor use a certain technology and get an idea how to improve your business.

As I work with lots of data daily my main vantage point is through data. First of all you need to find the right numbers in a ton of data. Second you need to truly understand how your user views your product. Third you need to keep a close eye on technology and how it can be used to improve your customer’s experience. So if someone throws an idea at a meeting ask him these three questions:

  1. Do you have any numbers to back up your idea?
  2. At what phase does this idea fit the user experience and how does it improve it?
  3. Is there any technology that can be used to execute this idea?

Why is it important to ask these questions? Well as an organisation you have limited resources, money, personnel, time etc. Pursuing the wrong ideas will generate a lot of waste. Also any new idea will generate further complexity in your system with a multiplication factor, which is something people tend to forget.

How can an organisation capture good ideas?

I have heard about a couple of different approaches to this one. One company has no fixed budgets but lets anyone pitch ideas and access funds from their total budget. Another approach is to dedicated a portion of your workweek to ideas that align with the company, like Google. A third approach is to have an open digital workspace where the employees are voting ideas.

Any way you do it just structuring the idea generation process is a good thing in today’s fast environment. Today speed a competitive advantage therefore you need to harness the collective intelligence of your organisation. An idea that can transform your business can start anywhere within your organisation. Are you rigged to capture it?