Ideas Are Plentiful: Are They? What’s The Value of Ideas?

Expert: Brian ArdingerCurator: Sugath Warnakulasuriya

Brian is the co-founder of the consulting & research firm Econic & co-host of the Inside/Outside Innovation podcast. He founded the NMotion Startup Accelerator & worked at Gartner in Asia.

01 // Why would you do idea competitions?

02 // What is the value of ideas?

03 // Idea competitions: What are best practices?

// Summary

Whether it’s called an Innovation Bootcamp, Ideation Competition or Hackathon, most low-cost, short-lived “idea sprints” are often the first steps that large corporations take to tap into the innovative energy of successful startups.

Innovation consultant Brian Ardinger challenges the view that ideas alone are inherently valuable. In his conversation with Sugath Warnakulasuriya, he lays out the pitfalls and pathways to turning a creativity sprint into a successful addition to a corporate innovation portfolio.

Follow idea to income

At large corporations, idea sprints often reveal desirability and deepen insights into customer discovery. Increasing clarity around an idea’s viability is also common, if you conclude that it’s indeed a solid value hypothesis – for someone else to develop. Yet the ideal innovation satisfies the trifecta of desirability, feasibility and viability.

Build a multi-part innovation engine

Brian cites the success of the Jumpstart Challenge initiative, which has fostered the creation of several new companies since its inception with three key main components:
– clear parameters
– a widespread industry pain-point
– disparate but well-defined actors working together

For example, a Chamber of Commerce in Nebraska teams up with a local corporation to identify a pervasive problem in its industry. They launch an idea competition among nearby entrepreneurs to propose a solution, with the corporation acting as the first beta-client. The winner obtains early-stage funding and markets their solution across the entire local industry.

“An idea by itself has very little value. It’s the execution of an idea that is valuable.”

Crafting a successful idea competition

1. Identify a clear goal
Unless you have clarity across the entire team and participants about which goal you’re targeting, you risk running aground. Focus on one of the following benefits:
– Changing the culture: signalling to employees that you are open to trying different things.
– Instilling new behaviors and mindsets: exposing large business to a startup culture mindset of fail fast, iterate constantly, stop seeking perfection.
– Teaching new tools, such as Lean Startup, Google Design Sprint, Business Model Canvas
– Generating new ideas: gold mines are rare, but they can be found!

2. Follow the sprint with steps
Any creativity sprint must lead to something or it’s worse than doing nothing. After being shaken out of your daily routine and hyped up for a few intensely productive days, going back to work-as-usual can cause morale and engagement to drop below pre-sprint levels. Use the Idea Funnel concept to keep momentum going:
– collect every idea
– filter ideas to prioritize ones around desirability, viability and feasibility.

Prioritize ideas based on a set of filters (a type of investment thesis) that helps inform which ideas should be explored and invested in further.
toss them into your “execution engine” where they can evolve

3. Identify who to engage
A cross-functional team built from different divisions is more likely to succeed in evolving an idea than a monochromatic team comprised only of IT people or marketing staff. Also consider Amazon’s “Two-Pizza Rule” for team size to boost the productivity and usefulness of your engagement meetings.