How to Increase the Quality of Ideas?

A few weeks ago I read a question on Innovation Excellence from someone who wanted to know the best way to improve the quality of ideas generated across the organisation. Several answers were given but none of them seemed to really satisfy. All answers ticked a few of the right boxes but there wasn’t one that ticked them all.

Single perspective
The answers, although different in their solution, were based on the fact that one person submits an idea and that’s it. All the answers addressed setting the environment so that this one person submits a higher quality idea. These solutions only improve idea submission quality marginally and are sometimes very hard to implement or expensive to execute (like hiring the best possible people). None of the answers ticked, what I think is, the most important box that gives the biggest improvement of idea quality, multiple perspectives.

Idea enrichment
The best way to increase the quality of ideas submitted, according to our experience, is to have many different people enrich each others’ ideas before they are evaluated. The fact that more people share their valuable perspectives and experience on the ideas, increases the quality dramatically. Just consider playing Trivial Pursuit. Would you rather play it by yourself or would you prefer teaming up with people that know about the game’s ‘question categories’? The same goes for generating quality ideas. It is much easier to cover and improve all ‘product categories’ (production, financial, legal, etc.) of the idea with the help of others rather than on your own. The more aspects you get covered by enrichments, the more you will increase idea quality. Having more people participate increases the chances to cover all important aspects.

It sounds very hard to get everyone to contribute to every idea all the time, and it is. That is why you shouldn’t.

Focused innovation
Instead of having a year-round idea box in which your employees or customers can drop any of their ideas all the time, you should focus the energy of all those people in a much shorter time slot and within a specific theme or topic, a so-called Idea Challenge. A time-limited online Idea Challenge not only engages people to participate (now is the time to share your idea!) but also engages everyone at roughly the same time which means everyone gets to see each others’ contributions. It also challenges participants to generate ideas on the same topic making it easier to enrich each others’ ideas. Proper Challenge management activates everyone to ‘build on’ and ‘add to’ those contributions which causes the quality of the ideas to increase dramatically.

By focusing your innovation efforts into Idea Challenges and actively engaging everyone to contribute and build upon each other, you will increase the quality of the submitted ideas. Guaranteed!

image credit: Jan Martijn Everts

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Jan Martijn EvertsJan Martijn Everts is Innovation Consultant @ Innovation Factory in the Netherlands. Jan Martijn has worked on a variety of projects, ranging from Heineken’s annual idea contests to PostNL’s ongoing innovation programme. Due to his uncommon background of both Engineering Physics and Business Administration he has great association skills, is creative and can give any challenge a creative twist.

Jan Martijn Everts

As innovation consultant I have worked in a start-up company on many open innovation projects ranging from Liander’s award-winning idea platform to Heineken’s innovation community. The variety in projects made me both an experienced 'crowdsourcer' as well as an experienced community manager. While working at the largest Dutch telecom operator KPN, as a project manager, developement manager and Theme Lead I learned how to get things done in a large and complex organisation. Due to my uncommon background of both Engineering Physics and Business Administration I can add a valuable perspective to any assignment. My colleagues describe me as an energetic and creative person who has a positive influence on others and is willing to take the extra step to get things done.




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No Comments

  1. Lola Olson on March 15, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Cheers for the great article Jan! We’ll be posting it soon as part of our Friday Innovation Links Roundup on our blog!

  2. Roy Luebke on March 15, 2013 at 9:22 am

    What makes a better idea? When it is focused on the customer.

    Find a customer need. Meet the need in a unique way. Deliver for more money than it takes to meet the need.

  3. Jan Martijn Everts on March 22, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Hi Roy,

    Thank you for replying.
    For some organisations ideas should indeed focus on the customer and, off course deliver more than they cost, but you can generate ideas for many more purposes in which customers should not be the focus. Think about e.g. production process innovations in a car part factory. Improving this process is about efficiency which may not be beneficial to the customer at all but to the revenues of the factory.
    However, this article is more on ideas in general. In almost every situation where you generate ideas for innovation, the quality of the ideas increase when you allow others to build on the ideas by adding more perspectives, experience and insights.

    In your case it would be even better to involve the customer in the ideation and enrichment process for their valuable and often untapped insights.


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