Concept Development: An Exercise to Make Idea Investment Decisions Easier

By Bill Truettner | Crowdsourcing
March 7, 2018

Recently, a client shared a story about presenting some very intriguing ideas from a crowdsourcing challenge to decision makers and being met with “Yes, great ideas, but we can’t decide which of the good ones to pick or what to invest without knowing a lot more.”

In that organization, like many, moving fast and choosing investments that are likely to be successful are table stakes – they’re must-haves. Competition and disruption are too intense to flirt with maybes.

For low effort, just-do-it ideas, implementation truly can be easy. But what about the tough ones…the compelling, substantive, meaningful ideas that seem to be worth pursuing but don’t have an obvious implementation path? Often, these can lead to bigger business impact.

In this article, I’m going to share a simple exercise that can help you help decision makers decide which idea – or ideas – to invest in.

Concept development

So, how do we develop ideas into plans with a high possibility of being successfully implemented? Going slow at the start, and thinking them through before starting, can actually help accelerate the process and deliver better outcomes. That’s where a concept development approach fits in, especially when dealing with complex problems.

With the right people, a concept development exercise can be run on a few key ideas in a half or full day. The resulting opportunity statement will make the investment decision much easier.

There are four steps to the concept development exercise, each of which can be customized to your circumstances by adding, deleting, or modifying questions.

1. The situation. Understand the situation surrounding the idea by asking questions such as:

  • What is the core insight behind the idea and the problem being solved?
  • How is the problem being solved today? What’s missing?
  • Who are the players and how they are connected?
  • What are the possible or current negative impacts of the problem?

2. The solution. Imagine and fully explore the ideal solution. Even if expressed in the original idea, it’s usually possible to talk through all dimensions of the solution and optimize it, taking into account the full situation. Make sure to ask:

  • How is it an improvement from what we do today?
  • Who will benefit, and how?
  • Are there orthodoxies we can challenge to find new approaches?
  • What solution components are required (skills, technologies, process changes, governance, cost, people, type of fiscal impact)?
  • What’s in, what’s out? Where do we draw the line?

3. The proof. Demonstrate that the solution will work.

  • How will we ensure success?
  • What are the risks and how do we mitigate them?
  • How would we rank the solution in terms of desirability, feasibility, and viability?
  • Can we build and test a prototype quickly?

4. The pitch. Develop a compelling argument for investment. Each of the following elements should be included in an opportunity statement. You might consider setting up a live pitch session in a Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den type format as a decision making approach.

  • Situation description
  • Ideal solution and what’s required to make it work
  • Risks and how to overcome
  • Chances of success
  • Top 3-5 reasons to invest

Final thoughts

When faced with the dilemma around which idea to invest in, taking a concept development approach can make the decision making process much easier. It’s a straightforward way of bringing clarity to a situation that could easily be clouded with hesitation and apprehension.

Ultimately, the opportunity statement that comes out of doing a concept development exercise is a more compelling way of showing decision makers where to invest company resources.

Bill Truettner is a Sr. Director of Strategic Services, Americas at Spigit

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