How to Use the Good Idea Filter

How to Use the Good Idea Filter

In a recent coaching session, an Executive, new to my coaching program, informed me she had “a hundred ideas a day”, but had a poor record of implementing most of them. My reply was to quote Thomas Edison: “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

We then discussed that success for Executives, Managers and Team Leaders in the Information Economy requires:

  1. A constant influx and the appropriate vetting of good ideas so Executives, Managers and Team Leaders can assist their Team Members and the organization in the perpetually quest for High Performance and Continuous Operational Improvements and
  2. A High Speed of Implementation so a good idea is put into action ASAP after having it or hearing about it (taking someone else’s good idea and putting it in to action is absolutely okay – just give them credit for the idea).

However, good idea generation and a high speed of implementation work only under the following conditions:

  • Involve the Team. If the Team is not involved in every step of the idea generation and implementation processes, the process will fail to deliver quality ideas and sustainable results.
  • Have a formalized – read “written” – Plan for Success. Without a written plan defining success for the Team and the organization, that goes beyond revenue generation, it’s impossible to determine which ideas are “good” – will contribute to the Plan’s success – and which are time, energy and resources vampires that will never give the appropriate ROI for the time, energy and resources expended.
  • Create An Idea List. Ask/encourage Team Members to share their ideas and collect ideas they believe will move the Plan for Success forward. If the Team is not consistently encouraged to do so, they won’t.
  1. Write the ideas down – Poor Hand Writing Is Better Than Good Memory – on an Idea List and share it with the Team.
  2. Give recognition to Team Members who provide ideas.
  3. Set up a Team Reading Program. Team reading and discussion about what the Team has read and its application to what the Team is doing generates good ideas. BTW: If reading a whole book seems overwhelming, have the Team read and discuss an article you send them or, better yet, provide all Team Members with a subscription to a relevant monthly magazine and have Team Members lead monthly discussions about the article they found most interesting/relevant to the Plan for Success.
  • Create & Utilize a Good Idea Filter. Once ideas have been collected, there must be an effective process in place to evaluate them. This process is the Good Idea Filter. The Good Idea Filter establishes an objective approach to the examination of ideas to determine which ideas are best suited to move the Plan for Success forward. It also reduces the undue impact of influence by those in positions of authority – i.e. Executive, Manager, Team Leader.
  1. With the Team, create a set of objective criteria to examine ideas on the basis of “is it a ‘need’ for the Plan’s success?” or only a “new, shiny, feel good ‘want’?” that won’t contribute, or doesn’t contribute enough, to the Plan’s success to merit the time, energy or resources required to implement it. This criteria must include a determination of the skill sets, time and resources it will take to implement an idea.
  2. Immediately eliminate those ideas ranking under 50% on the Good Idea Filter from the implementation discussion.
  3. To get meaningful Team Member participation, Team Members need to trust the process. This means once the idea examination criteria is established and bad ideas are eliminated, Executives, Managers, Team Leaders and others cannot be allowed to override the process and resurrect them – unless they present new information significant enough to put the idea through the Good Idea Filter again. If this process is to be impactful, this must be a rare occurrence.
  4. As with any process, the Good Idea Filter needs to evolve as the Team gets better at using it. However, do not change the idea examination criteria for at least the first three months. This gives the Team Members the time needed to become familiar/comfortable with the process and to believe this process will be used to decide which ideas will be implemented.
  • Prioritize the Good Ideas. To establish this process as a requirement for the generation and implementation of good ideas there needs to be an initial record of success.
  1. A record of success is accomplished within the first three months by having the Team identify the good ideas generated by the Good Idea Filter that require small amounts of time, energy and resources – and implement them first.
  2. The BIG good ideas – those requiring much more time, energy and resources – are delayed, not forgotten, until the Team experiences some small successes.
  3. Small successes generate Team energy & momentum, lead to more innovative/creative ideas, increase the Team’s tolerence for more risk and supports an increased flow of resources based on the ROI of the good ideas that have been implemented. Also, small failures will not destroy the idea generation/ implementation processwhile a BIG idea failure can destroy the process.
  4. Some good ideas, for a variety of reasons will turn out to be not so good. In other words, they “fail.” The Team must accept this and “fail fast” when it becomes apparent a good idea isn’t going to produce the expected ROI on the investment of time, energy and resources. This is difficult because of sunk cost but doubling down on a good idea gone bad is always a bad idea. Make sure the Team understand the decision and move on to the next idea on your list.

The Coach’s Corner: Moving the organization to the next level cannot be accomplished without changing how things get done thorughout the organization. This requires a continual flow of new ideas to improve existing processes and develop people. Often, the best new ideas come from the Teams that do the work at the front line.  This process allows their ideas to be recognized and implemented to the betterment of the organization.

Finally, if you and your Team aren’t generating a continual flow of good ideas to improve people and process you need to have a honest conversation with the Team about what’s impeding the good idea process. BTW: 80% of the time it’s something the Executive, Manager or Team Leader is or is not doing.

I could be wrong… but I’m not. 

Thanks for reading.

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