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People gather ideas at organizations for a number of different purposes; they gather ideas for improving the workplace, improving products, finding new products, enhancing the customer experience and much more. But one of the questions that we encounter most often is “how do you evaluate and choose the ideas that best meet your goals?” In other words, “how do you know a great idea when you see one?”

Folding Burritos is a product development blog that has a really great comprehensive blog post about the types of ways to prioritize and make product decisions, but what we’ve found is that most of these evaluation methods can be applied to all sorts of ideas and decision making (not just to product feature decisions). But I’m going to go through a short list of the most common evaluation criteria that we use at IdeaScale:

Pass/Fail: Pass/fail is pretty easy. Ideas must meet specific required criteria in order to be considered and/or move forward in the selection process.

Team Building: Building teams around ideas can empower collaboration across companies and around ideas, but some people can use the team build stage as an additional validation measure. Imagine, perhaps, that a popular idea gained a lot of votes, but then when the time came to get people to volunteer to work on the idea, no on joined the team… What does that tell you about the level of urgency around an idea?

Business Assessment: There are a number of ways to judge an idea against pre-defined criteria: the five star assessment, idea scoring, ROI analysis, cost analysis. Some tools even allow you to weight the criteria so that you can prioritize not just against the ratings, but against the different criteria themselves.

Pairwise Comparison: Organizations will put up ideas right next to one another and ask which idea is preferred? This generates a ranking system for an entire list of ideas with the most commonly chosen ideas appearing on top and the least selected at the bottom.

Research and Investigation: This evaluation measure asks for additional information. Companies use a lot of traditional proposal development and idea pitching templates for this kind of evaluation: everything from business model canvas, SWOT analysis, to COSTAR that asks for additional information about an idea that help to develop an initial idea to have a business application. Ideas that can’t answer these questions with compelling & concrete answers don’t generally progress to later stages.

Financial Analysis: This decision making is usually left to experts (although sometimes estimations can occur through large-scale inquiry). Either way the associated financial costs and potential gains of an idea are reviewed and used for decision making.

Funding: Most people are familiar with getting budget from within their company, but crowdfunding is another way to validate ideas. A great example is, of course, the Kickstarter model which not only empowers individuals to collect money for their ideas, it also validates that there’s an audience for their idea in the first place.

There are more evaluation tools, but these are just a few that are available to anyone looking to rate and prioritize ideas. Learn more about idea evaluation.