Have you ever known a time when ideas have been more important, nor so plentiful? Ideas are everywhere lately! Huge ideas, game changing ideas, groundbreaking ideas. All meant to fuel the ever-rising consumer demand for innovation. Creative problem solving has developed into an everyday activity for hundreds of thousands of eager and impressive business people around the world.
The problem is, most don’t have a clue what a “good idea” really is.
All Ideas Are Not Created Equal
Think about it. Simply what constitutes a good idea? That it’s a breakthrough idea and essentially modifies the way folks do things? Just like the Kindle did? Possibly you’ve forgotten the unique Sony Bookman, a monumental failure. Clearly a digital book reader was an amazing idea in 2007 – not so much in 1991.
That it makes use of technologies in highly effective new ways? Was the atomic bomb a good idea? That one continues to be debated.
Because it’s less expensive? The Yugo is considered one of the most disastrous automotive introductions in history.
Since it takes something familiar and “improves” on it? Like Crystal Pepsi in the 90s? Neither lasted a year.
Apparently new, better, improved, technologically advanced and all the other holy grails product developers and marketers seek aren’t what defines a good idea, at least not all the time.
So what are the characteristics of a good idea? Are they particular to the task at hand? Or are there consistent qualities that apply to just about any idea? More important, can they be defined before idea generation begins, to help lead us to the most important, finest idea possible? Or are they only evident after an idea has been conceived, carried out and tested – suggesting that producing good ideas is pretty much a matter of chance?
There are definitely common characteristics shared among all worthwhile ideas. But generally there shall be more specific qualities that have to be present for an idea to be thought of highly effective for solving a particular challenge.
The Common Parts of Good Ideas
Different/Better – For a good suggestion to be good, it should be at least somewhat different from something else – whatever the new idea is making an attempt to replace. And it should provide some extent of improvement. Otherwise, it’s simply a mediocre idea or a bad idea. It doesn’t really need to be new (as in never before accomplished – as in “innovative”), just different from what has been carried out before for the particular challenge.
Delivers Value – “Value” is a fascinating word in that it requires two connected elements. First, the idea must do something better – faster, cheaper, easier, more elegantly, more powerfully, more successfully, more efficiently. But that improvement must also be something somebody really wants. All of the examples given earlier (and pretty much every other legendary product or marketing blunder) failed because no person really wanted the improvement provided, or at the very least not at the expense of something else more important. Value is, by definition, something “valued.” And it’s an integral part of a very good idea.
Doable – A flying automotive or a home teleportation chamber could be nifty. But sadly both defy the currently accepted laws of physics. For an idea to be good, it must be possible. It might seem obvious, but for those who sit through enough brainstorm sessions, you will hear lots of inconceivable suggestions.
Acceptable Cost-Benefit – If the idea costs more to implement than it can deliver in terms of value, it is impractical. This is applicable not just to financial cost, but time, resources, energy, etc. If no one is prepared to pay the price for whatever benefit the idea delivers, it’s not a good idea.
Particular Criteria for Good Ideas
After all, each problem has its distinctive aspects and requirements. So in addition to the common elements of fine ideas discussed above, you will need to determine what specific characteristics an idea will need to have in order to be considered “good” – and to do so BEFORE you begin generating ideas.
That is rarely the case in practice. In typical group brainstorms, for instance, unless the session leader has been skilled in advanced brainstorming methodologies, it is unlikely that he or she will have considered the objective selection standards for ideas generated.
By taking the time to do that before ideation begins, and sharing these criteria with the group, everyone is on the same page. The group knows what their ideas will be measured against, and can think about this when generating them. Adding this one, simple step to the brainstorming process can lead to dramatically better results, both in terms of quality and quantity of excellent ideas.
If you’re like most people, you’re coming up with ideas all the time. Some for challenges or opportunities in business, some for use in your private life. Take a few moments to consider – ideally before you begin thinking – just what a winning idea will look like.
You’ll find it quite a bit easier to identify when it finally shows up.
About The Author:
SmartStorming helps organizations solve tough business challenges in new, more innovative ways – with advanced brainstorm leadership training, problem solving techniques, brainstorming activities, and a variety of proven skills organizations need to innovate. Learn more about their programs, and groundbreaking book, SmartStorming: The Game-Changing Process for Generating Bigger, Better Ideas at http://www.SmartStorming.com.