Employee Engagement

What Makes a Good Idea? (Video)

what makes a good idea

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The power of providing your employees with a process and place to share and promote ideas cannot be underestimated. By organizations stating that they don’t have all the answers and they want their employees to help solve these problems, they are showing a level of vulnerability that will improve employee engagement and have an organizational culture that is bonded around achieving a common cause.

It must be stated though that the age-old saying of ‘any idea is a good idea’ needs a bit of a refresh, as, for me not all ideas are good ideas. This blog explains what makes a good idea.

Ideation processes are incredibly difficult to get right and they all center around employee ideas. If the ideation process is to be a success, then organizations need to be taking ideas from the drawing board into the business. The organization cannot do this if the standard of ideas is not up to scratch.

It may seem blunt but if you are in the business of ideating then you don’t want to waste time with bad ideas. You want to spend your time discussing well-structured, well-thought-out ideas that truly provide you with the inspiration and opportunity to transform your organization.

In this blog, I’m going to run through a few ways that can help you to submit the best ideas and have those ideas noticed by the whole organization.

I also want to provide some tips and takeaways that will help organizations to encourage and produce only top-quality ideators.

What Makes a Good Idea?

Two people ideating with sticky notes: what makes a good idea?

The saying goes ‘any idea is a good idea’ and we agree that this is the best way of encouraging ideas to be shared and to get that initial rush of ideation within an organization. However, if you want to make a true and lasting success of your ideation process, then the focus needs to be on getting good ideas shared.

Creating a good idea isn’t as easy as it may seem and there are three things I would encourage every budding ideator to consider:

  • How you structure the idea
  • The importance of applying research to back up the idea
  • The power of hunting in packs

I will explore each of these items in more depth as we begin to piece together what makes an idea that is truly worth sharing.

Structuring your idea

The overall requirements for the idea submission should have been set out by those requesting the idea to be submitted. I provide three key ingredients that lead to a successful challenge in this previous blog post. That said, how you respond to the questions being asked is a vital ingredient in what turns ‘just an idea’ into a ‘good idea’ with the possibility of making a lasting impact and being successful.

In my view, there are four considerations for this:

  • Sticky Title – make the title of your idea catchy, informative and enticing. You need to make it sticky, i.e make your title stick in the brains and memories of those that are reviewing it and viewing it. You want people to recognize your idea and get behind it and the title of your idea is the shop window and the thing that will draw people in.
  • Provide detail – you need to show your audience that you know what you are on about and that your idea has weight behind it. That said, the detail needs to be concise and hold people’s attention. At the idea stage you don’t need to prove the ROI, this comes later. At this stage, you need to show people that you mean business and you know what you’re talking about. You need to get people to buy into your idea and to do this you need to strike the balance between providing detail and not turning people off.
  • Select the right themes – again, those that are setting the challenges will provide you with the ability to select a theme or category. This will provide granularity and detail to your idea without going into vast amounts of writing. As a submitter, spend some time thinking through the key themes your idea responds to as this will show some thought has gone into submitting your idea. I have seen many times that submitters will just select every available theme thinking that will help. In fact, this confuses things as people don’t know what your idea is actually trying to solve.
  • Don’t be afraid of attachments – people digest content in different ways. For some, just providing a brief outline to your idea will be enough. For others, they will want pages of detail. As an idea submitter, keep the submission form brief and concise and then back this up with any detail that supports it. Attachments will show that you have given some thought to the idea. It will provide the detail people want. Don’t be afraid of giving lots of supporting information to the idea submission.

Apply some research

Open notepad containing written notes: what makes a good idea?

This point is all about taking a breath and really thinking through your idea prior to submitting it. I don’t want you to write a Ph.D. thesis on the idea, but you need to think it through. Look at the challenge you are responding to and really look at whether what you are suggesting responds to that idea and does what it says it is able to do.

If you are certain you are responding to the challenge correctly then support your submission with some knowledge. Use some industry stats, include some quotes, and even do some research within your organization to show that your idea isn’t just blue-sky thinking and can actually impact the business in a positive way.

The final piece with this is making sure the idea you are submitting hasn’t been submitted before and isn’t something your organization is currently doing. This is possibly the most important piece of research you need to do as this will be the difference between success and wasting everyone’s time.

I always like to say that ‘the thing you are thinking of and wanting to do is probably already being done somewhere else by somebody else’. Truly original ideas are hard to come by so just pause, temper your enthusiasm, and do your research prior to sharing your idea.

Hunt in packs

A group of business people looking at a laptop: what makes a good idea?

This leads on nicely from my last point. Chances are, somebody is already thinking about the idea you are submitting, and somebody may already be doing it. If you do your research as suggested above and then go one further by reaching out and teaming up with those fellow ideators, then the weight of your idea will go up in value. The more people that are thinking the same and saying the same thing within an organization, then the higher the chances the organization will listen and act on the idea.

If your idea is truly unique then you are on to a winner, but I would still recommend drumming up noise around the idea to give you that little leg-up on the competition. I’d recommend tagging colleagues into the idea, talking to colleagues prior to submission, or even sharing the idea over email to colleagues and influential people with your organization.

Recommended read: The incredible benefits of intrapreneurship

What will this do? It will get more eyes on your idea. More eyes equal more votes. More votes will lead to the higher promotion of your idea. Higher promotion will lead to a greater chance of the idea getting selected.

Engagement is key around ideation, so you need to be prepared to be your own cheerleader in many respects in order to get a better chance of being noticed.

Finally, teaming up with colleagues to submit an idea together will have the same effect. If it is seen that more people think an idea is worth submitting or worth talking about then those with the authority to approve ideas are more likely to take note and the idea has a greater chance of being successful.

In Summary: What Makes a Good Idea?

I believe the key takeaway around what makes a good idea is applying some time and understanding to all aspects of the ideation process. For those submitting ideas, you need to understand that your idea may not be as incredible as you may think, while those receiving the ideas need to understand that submitting an idea is an incredibly vulnerable thing for an employee to do.

It’s down to everyone to appreciate that good ideas are easy to enable but difficult to produce and submit. If time can be taken and understanding applied then an organization’s ideation process and idea pipeline will be full of detailed, well structured, and well-considered ideas that can truly make an impact.

If ‘What Makes a good challenge?’ is also a burning question for you and your organization, here are three key ingredients that lead to a successful challenge.

FAQs: What Makes a Good Idea?

What are the qualities of a good idea?

There are three main qualities that make a good idea:

  • Well-structured, so that it grabs your reader’s attention
  • Backed-up with research, to give it credibility
  • Often created by a team of people who have similar ideas

How do good ideas contribute to innovation and problem-solving?

Organizations need good ideas from their employees, clients, and partner organizations that they can use to overcome key challenges or become more competitive. Well-structured, well-thought-out ideas truly provide you with the inspiration and opportunity to transform your business. Good ideas can be turned into business cases, and then into real-life projects that provide value for the organization.

How do you measure a good idea?

You can use innovation management software to triage your submitted ideas – by measuring them against a set of criteria based on your business strategy – as well as asking your teams to vote on their favorites. Once you have a selection of ideas that you believe meet your criteria for potential projects, you can then measure them further, using business case software. This enables you to compare the potential costs, risks and benefits of a range of ideas, before progressing those with the greatest potential.

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