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Innovation Screening Criteria

One of the challenges that every innovative leader faces is how to select between the different ideas that emerge at the ideation stage.

Which ideas do you select? Which do you prioritise? What ideas do you begin to prototype?

Unless you have a template by which to evaluate the ideas individually and against each other, you risk to decide based on the opinion of the most senior and/or influential people in the organisation, rather than based on a more objective approach. One of the leaders I had the pleasure to work with used to say:

Opinions are like diamonds. The more you have, the least valuable they are.

So, instead, he was requesting his management team to collect and analyse data, so the the most convincing data was driving the decision process.

Identifying and agreeing on the criteria you will use to assess each individual idea is a process every innovation manager should do as soon as possible, to get clarity on the amount of knowns and unknowns that you have for each specific idea.

THE CRITERIA

I like to apply 4 criteria to measure the pulse of any initial idea, and I like to think about the idea on a series of dimensions that makes sure I am not just focusing on one angle and me and my team keep an objective perspective on the topic. These dimensions are pretty standard in innovation management, although I did customise them to our own needs:

  • DESIRABILITY
  • FEASIBILITY
  • VIABILITY
  • CREDIBILITY

For each of these criteria the idea is to give a rating at the level of each individual underlying question. I use a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means the idea scores very low on that question and 10 means the idea scores the max. 

I created also benchmarks on what would be the ideal score of an idea on each individual question, so that I can compare the rating of the idea in my hands with what I believe should be a satisfactory rating. This helps navigate through scores that are not all 10s (as it is mostly the case when you innovate).  

(NOTE: If this is getting too complicated and abstract, I created a template that you can download at the end of the article so you can use it for your own work and/or follow along with me in this article in case i am losing you! )

So let’s look at the criteria for the first assessment of our idea(s) one by one:

Desirability

In my books, the number one criteria. As it focuses on your customer and his/her needs. As I mentioned earlier, an innovation only becomes one if you are solving a problem for somebody and that somebody is willing to pay for it. So assessing the desirability of your idea is crucial.

In particular, here are the questions that I like to ask:

  • What customer profile will this appeal to? Who is the Ideal Customer Avatar?
  • Does the value proposition fit with the needs of your customer?
  • Is the need expressed or unexpressed?
  • What killer features, benefits, and experiences does the soluton provide that makes it a must-have for users?


Feasibility

This criteria looks at the difficulty in executing this idea, and it covers both the technology required for the development, anything related to patents and licensing requirements; but it also covers fundamental aspects in terms of the skills you will need to develop and launch the product, both in terms of people’s time and their capabilities. I want to stress here the fact that I am talking about both soft and hard skills.

You can be a magnificent engineer or a creative and resourceful designer, but if you are going to get into a deep at the first difficulty or burden, your manager needs to be aware of that and be prepared to jump in with extra resources and ways to get you back on track.

The other fundamental piece in the feasibility assessment is what I call the Landing Strip, and which i admit having totally underestimated only a few years ago when the solution we had worked so hard to develop failed to succeed in the market for lack of understanding or buy-in or skill set of the local salesforce.

Today I am much more wary about assessing and raise concerns it early so we can plan (and budget) for it right from the start.

So, in detail, here are the questions I like to ask to assess the Feasibility of the Idea:

  • Do we have the required skills & resources?
  • Do we have to build / buy / borrow?
  • Is the technology readily available?
  • What is the effort required to commercialise the solution?


VIABILITY

This is the criteria the finance department gets excited or worried about. And this is also the one that you have high chances of getting wrong in the beginning when you are just starting with your idea and you are not in a position to put together a decent business case.

This is the criteria the finance department gets excited or worried about. And this is also the one that you have high chances of getting wrong in the beginning when you are just starting with your idea and you are not in a position to put together a decent business case.

We are talking about return on investment and this needs to cover both tangible and intangible benefits. So for example if this IDEA will result in more of a PR benefit, and improve your reputation, but you won’t see any immediate effect on your bottom line, you still have to consider those non-tangible benefits within your equation. They are just harder to sell internally, particularly to you CFO!

Here are the list of questions I like to ask to assess the viability:

  • What is the level of confidence regarding the cost structure and revenue stream
  • What is the investment required?
  • What is the financial payback and NPV?
  • How scalable is it?
  • What are the non-monetary benefits?


CREDIBILITY

Another very important criteria that not everyone takes the time to assess and rate, but that could be the reason you succeed or not with your innovation, once it hits the marketplace, is the credibility you have externally to come up with that specific solution.

The beautiful illustrative example that I have seen made in this context and that I will still with pride is BIC launching a perfume line. Everyone familiar with Bic pens right? Very mainstream, do their job and cheap. Not exactly DNA characteristics you would look in the fragrant to accompany your day, right? Well that is when they probably had all the required skill set dealing with liquid in plastic, but completely underestimate their equity in customers minds to realise that launching a perfume line was not in there realm!

This is probably an extreme example, but you get the point. 

Self-awareness, knowing where you stand as a brand/company and what your customers expect from you, is a good sense check of your innovation idea. When you realize that you are not well placed to come up with the solution you are thinking of, then it gives you the opportunity to rethink you strategy: do you need to partner with somebody that has more credibility in that space? Do you need to acquire skills etc. 

Here are the questions I like to answer when assessing the Credibility Criteria:

  • How credible are we to offer this value proposition?
  • Do we have special customer relationships who would trust us with this proposition?

So there you have the 5 Criteria to evaluate and assess your ideas.


CONCLUSION

As you advance with the project, you learn and pivot your ideas, you will have to go through this exercise again; check if any of the answers you gave changed and modify accordingly. 

It does take time to get into the habits of using those, but consistency and continuity will pay in the long run, so be resilient. 

My personal experience is that it really sat with me in protecting this framework and socialize it over and over again.

People are really interesting: they love framework but applying them consistently always seems a burden. The trick is to show them the value and what it simplifies.

Being clear about your ideas in the context of these criteria allows you to not overlook any possible shortcoming or limitation of your idea, and this will save you a lot of money and time!

And remember, it is never too early to assess your idea. The earlier you get clarity and get customers’ feedback, the better!

Bye for now.

Chiara

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1 thought on “Innovation Screening Criteria”

  1. Have you applied the Screening Criteria to your Ideas? It helped me a lot, both for my own sense check of the ideas and when discussing with my team!

    Which criteria is the hardest to score?

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I am a Senior Leader in Innovation Management, Customer Insights & Market Development. I speak 5 languages and lived in 4 different countries across Europe. I am passionate about understanding people and serving them with product and solutions that enhance their lives. I love art, being active and spending quality time with my family and friends. I am a proud mom of twins and a lucky wife of an awesome Swedish man.

1 thought on “Innovation Screening Criteria”

  1. Have you applied the Screening Criteria to your Ideas? It helped me a lot, both for my own sense check of the ideas and when discussing with my team!

    Which criteria is the hardest to score?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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