Two Ways to Select Ideas for Innovation

by Tim Kastelle

Innovation is more than just generating ideas. Most organizations have more than enough ideas. They might need better ones, but usually they need to get better at selecting ideas, executing ideas, and diffusing ideas. The irony of this situation is that there are a lot of techniques around (and consultants that use them!) designed to help generate ideas, but not nearly as many available for the more difficult steps.

So it’s been really nice to run across two different methods that can be used to select ideas this week. The first is from the book Gamestorming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, James Macanufo. I’m only partway through the book, but so far it is pretty good. The basic premise is that games are the best way to unlock peoples’ capacity for creative thinking. After a brief introduction of some the thinking that justifies the premise, the bulk of the book is taken up with descriptions of more than 80 games that you can play to help with the idea management process (you can see some examples on Dave Gray’s site).

The thing that I like about the book is that it is not just looking at ideation. They actually consider selection too. Here is how they frame the process:

Two Ways to Select Ideas for Innovation

Many ideation tools only look at the first part of this process. But in Gamestorming they try to address all three parts. More importantly, they include games that can be used effectively in the explore and close phases too. Note that “close” is equal to “select” – so this is an important area to address.

They also point out that going through this process is messy, and non-linear:

Two Ways to Select Ideas for Innovation

Again, I think this is a pretty good approach. They don’t have as many games for the selecting step as for the first two, but it is still a pretty useful resource.

Nilofer Merchant takes a more systematic approach to idea selection in The New How (recommended to me by Matt Perez – thanks Matt!). Here she is explaining her main ideas:

The issue that she is trying to address is the gap that many organizations have between strategy development and strategy execution. She attributes this gap to a lack of participation in the strategy development process by those who actually have to make the strategies work – an idea that certainly rings true for me.

The bulk of her book is taken up with developing a methodology for generating strategic options, outlining how the different ones could work, selecting the best one, and getting people to take responsibility for executing the strategy. The great thing here is that Merchant spends the most time explaining what she calls Murderboarding, which is the idea selection step in the process.

Merchant says that Murderboarding is not designed to find the ultimate best solution, but that it’s supposed to help you find the best strategy out of the options available. This reflects the main flaw that I see in the book, which is that it is based on the premise that your strategic outcomes are within your control. I don’t think that this is necessarily true. However, if you keep that caveat in mind, there are some very useful ideas in the book.

Selecting ideas is a critical step in the innovation process, and it’s one with which a lot of the organizations that I talk to really struggle. So it’s great to see people giving some thought to how to address this problem. If idea selection is an issue in your organization, these two books will be useful resources.


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Tim KastelleTim Kastelle is a Lecturer in Innovation Management in the University of Queensland Business School. He blogs about innovation at the Innovation Leadership Network.

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  1. Hi Tim

    I have just ordered ‘Gamestorming’ just before reading this. I will also look at The New How.

    I recommend the brand new ‘Business Model generation’, while it doesn’t say anything new, it puts it altogether in a new way. I have some of my team working with it.

    John

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