Having a surplus of creative ideas to solve a workplace challenge or develop a new product or service may seem like a good thing (it’s certainly preferable to having zero ideas), but you need to consider that not all ideas are created equal and only a few will make it through to execution. Here are five things to take into account when selecting the best ideas to take forward:
A quick-win is something small and obvious to do that is a no-regrets action. You don’t want to prioritise quick wins, you want to focus on “win quicklies”. These are ideas that can be implemented rapidly and that will test, or prove, an interesting aspect of something with greater potential.
Small win quicklies can often be more valuable than bigger ideas because (a) they help minimise risk for the team implementing it, and (b) help you to see results sooner. Many organisations like to see how a win quickly proves that something much larger has the potential for success and value.
A simple tool
A win quickly matrix can help you to compare ideas and identify the ones to progress. This two-by-two matrix measures how easy an idea is to deliver on the horizontal axis and how well the idea will prove something on the vertical axis. Ideas that are hard to do and have a low ability as proof points will be in the lower-left quadrant, while those that are easy to implement and will readily prove something are in the top-right quadrant.
To begin, place one of your ideas at the centre of the matrix, and then compare the position of the others as you add them relative to this first idea. Add around ten ideas onto the matrix, all of which should be relatively quick to deliver.
Ideas in the top-right quadrant that have a high impact and are easy to do are the ones that will be most appealing. But ideas that have a high impact and are hard to do (the top-left quadrant) may also be worth considering. Ideas in the lower half of the matrix will have a lower impact, so you may not want to consider these at all.
Take another look
There will be ideas that are deemed not good enough to be on your win quickly matrix. These ideas, together with the ideas you placed on the lower half of the matrix, may still have value for you. While these ideas may not be strong enough to stand on their own in their current form, if you combine several of them together (perhaps re-shaping them), then there may be value in them you hadn’t noticed earlier.
Perhaps two or three different ideas can merge and integrate to become something that’s much more interesting. Or maybe bring two ideas together sparks a completely new idea.
Sometimes it’s difficult to carry several ideas in your mind at the same time. A useful exercise to help you to integrate ideas is to write each one on a sticky-note and then pair them up in different ways to see what new thoughts are triggered by each distinct combination of stickies. If you feel the need to write extra stickies to bring into the mix, then do whatever helps you with your thinking. It’s never too late for more new ideas that add value to address your big issue.
Seek other visions
It’s important to remember that no matter how pleased you are with your ideas, you’ve only addressed it from one viewpoint: yours. Other viewpoints may differ from yours, and you need to consider whether your proposed solution should incorporate these differing perspectives. So, take your ideas for a test drive to see what other people think of them; they may have experience and knowledge to help you build on your ideas.
The aim is to fashion your ideas into elegant and pragmatic solutions, and others can help with this. Always consider a potential solution as a work-in-progress at this stage, and not as a take-it-or-leave-it idea. Be open to being told why your idea may be difficult to put into practice but do ask for ways to overcome the problem being brought up, and then incorporate those suggestions.
Flexible solutions are easier to sell
Remember that a senior person is likely to have more knowledge than you of activities underway in your organisation that your proposal needs to align with. So be flexible. Sell your proposal as an adaptable solution they can support, shape, and benefit from. Explain how you’ve engaged others in your thinking, as this helps show you as a team player and how your thinking has been validated by relevant people.
Present your concept as one that can be directed and shaped – how it gets amended as it progresses is immaterial. You can’t know or control these elements, however, it’s still your idea being discussed – and ultimately implemented.
Using visuals and words that encourage different interpretations through ambiguity can be helpful. Similarly, you can offer a range of options for any solution to encourage alternate thinking about how your concept might ultimately look. Allowing stakeholders to suggest changes, or ways to implement it, shows interest from them, and helps you gain buy-in for your proposal.