Select Your Next Big Innovation with an Innovation Market

by Paul Sloane

Select Your Next Big Innovation with an Innovation Market

How do you choose which of your many promising ideas should get the precious and limited resources needed to bring it to market?  Try using the wisdom of crowds.  Many companies do this with software products which allow people to comment or vote on ideas – and this is fine.  But if you do not have such an app or you just want something more immediate and engaging then try setting up an innovation market.  Here is it how it works.

Choose a limited number of promising initial ideas.  These might be the top choices from brainstorm sessions or from your internal suggestions scheme or from external contributors.  I would suggest between five and ten ideas.  Each idea is assigned a champion who will act as presenter and salesperson for the idea.  They draw up a five minute presentation together with a mock-up, wireframe or series of screenshots which will help people to visualise and grasp the concept.

Set up stalls (or separate rooms) where the presentations will take place.  Now you can summon your crowd or crowds.  They will typically consist of employees but you can use customers or strangers provided there is no potential trade secret to be shown.

Small groups attend each presentation in turn.  The presentation lasts about five minutes with another five minutes for questions and answers.  People can leave notes after a presentation saying what they liked about the idea or with suggestions for improvements.

When people have seen all the presentations they vote – in secret so that no-one can see which is currently the most popular project.  I recommend that you give attendees six votes  – or if you prefer, six dollars to spend in the market.  They vote for two or three of the ideas.  So they can vote 3,2,1 or 4,1,1 or 5,1 or 4,2 or 3,3.  The votes are totalled and there is usually a clear winner.

It is helpful to give people some criteria to help them with their voting.  What sorts of innovations does the organisation need?  E.g. we want to select and implement ideas which are novel, appealing to customers and will generate significant revenues within two years.  Or you may have different priorities.

This method is subjective.  People are influenced by the personality of the presenter, especially someone who is enthusiastic and well-informed.  There is no ROI calculation or detailed business case.  However, the crowds can be often prove to be wiser than the executives.  And a big plus is that there will be better support for the winning idea across the organisation because so many people have seen, contributed and bought into the project.

 
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Paul-Sloane-780812Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation, and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, published both published by Kogan-Page. Follow him @PaulSloane

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