How to converge on an idea (in a 48 hour challenge)

by Kelly Ryan / 16 April 2015 / No Comments

Earlier, I shared some techniques for having ideas and having good ideas. These were some techniques I worked through with teams at the Innes 48 business start up competition. Here is the next step I worked through with some teams; converging on an idea to progress with.

When teams came to the end of the initial ideation phase, they needed to select an idea from the bunch, to investigate further and flesh out into a business concept.

This is easier said than done. I’ve been in both mentor and participant roles in 48 hour challenges like this. It can be surprisingly difficult to select a single idea from a bunch of ideas, to progress with, in the early hours of the event.

This is due to a number of factors:

  • The differences in opinions and preferences that naturally occur within a group.
  • The pressure created by a 48 hour challenge – especially if it is a competition, with prizes at stake. This pressure to pick the ‘right’ or ‘winning’ solution can be intense.
  • Any opinion, at this early ideas stage, on whether an idea will be successful, is purely hypothetical. It is impossible to know with any certainty if it will be successful.
  • It can be difficult to evaluate an idea that is just that; an idea – not a fully-formed concept or business yet.
  • In real-world scenarios, these factors also apply, but slightly differently.

    I’ve seen teams in previous years’ competitions come to a complete standstill (and worse – break up) when they have been unable to decide unanimously which idea they will pursue.
    In this situation I suggest developing some criteria with which to evaluate a range of ideas.

    The last two steps I described in my post about ideation – thinking about ideas in terms of problems and solutions, and using customer need statements – can form important groundwork for this next step. This is because people need to know some key things about ideas in order to evaluate them.

    Using a set of criteria to assess ideas

    Coming up with assessment criteria for potential solutions enables a team to evaluate those ideas with some rigour. Importantly, it moves teams from talking (eg. circular conversations about which idea is the best) to doing – an essential transition in innovation. It is also important in the process of separating people from ideas, so ideas can be assessed with some objectivity.

    The criteria selected really needs to come from the people invested in the process. So, at the Innes 48 event, I only facilitated the development of each team’s own set of criteria. Some suggestions I offered were, “How accessible are users of this idea, for testing, in the next 24 hours?” and “How big of a deal is the problem this idea is trying to solve?” (which in itself could be tackled a few different ways).

    However, I did offer one suggestion for a criterion to all teams in this situation – “Which idea are you most passionate about?”. This is because customer-centred innovation requires a huge human effort. Possibly never more so than in a business start up. Working on something you are passionate about goes a long way to providing the required energy and momentum to see the process through to the end.

    The team can then apply their agreed set of criteria to their set of ideas, to produce a score or rating for each. This part of the process can be carried out a number of ways, including using a weighting system to account for the relative importance of different criteria within the set.

    This technique identifies the ‘best’ idea/s, that the team can then pick up and run with. As in any human-centred innovation process, it’s possible (probable, even) that this idea is not the one presented to judges at the end of the competition. But it does give the team something to work with.

    This technique is equally applicable in customer experience innovation projects in established organisations. We’ve used it in client projects with great success.

    What is your process for selecting an idea from the bunch to work on?

    About the author:

    Kelly is a co-founder of Divergent. Kelly is a passionate ethnographic researcher and loves ideating and prototyping. She is experienced in successfully balancing clients organisational goals and customer’s needs.

    Leave a Reply

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