Idea Evaluation by James Shewry

I am sure your business is buzzing with creative ideas on how things can be done better from “the new product that we need to start selling now” to “the new coffee machine that our employees just cannot continue without”. Whatever the idea, there needs to be someone to sit down and work out – is it tangible? Right for the business? Sustainable?

This is where your much needed support comes in the form of the ‘Ideas Evaluator’, ‘Expert’ or ‘Specialist’, the person that turns dreams into reality. Without good evaluators we have suggestors that feel like they are not being listened too, and frustrated senior leaders asking why do we need an ideas programme?

So how do you go about selecting an evaluator, working with them and keeping them motivated.

Selecting your team

The first area to consider is structure. You can either form an ideas panel, bringing together the key business areas to review and debate each idea or have individuals across the business to evaluate and feedback on progress. Each option has its own merits however the selection of these individuals will determines success. Getting a good evaluator is no easy exercise, they need to demonstrate:

  • Passion and openness to new ideas
  • Fair and Open-Minded
  • Power to influence change
  • Good Communicator
  • Active and timely with responses
  • Can handle good and bad ideas
  • Experts in their field
  • Strong supporters of the innovation programme and committed to its success

Evaluators should be true role models within the organisation, they are keen to engage with all employees to make a difference and understand that ideas matter.

A Match made in Heaven

Once you have found your evaluators, you will need to work hard to support them by providing all the tools they need to make their role simple, effective and dare we say ‘fun’. Make sure you run through some of the highlights so they know what to expect:

  • How many ideas will they see each day/week/month?
  • How quickly to provide a first response and then follow up responses?
  • How they will receive the ideas?
  • Whether they can speak directly with the suggestors
  • Where they go for additional information?
  • What action they take if it is not an idea they can review?

Once they have all the guidance needed they will be ready to receive the bounty of ideas to be reviewed, prioritised and progressed.

Why do I Care?

As time progress it will be vital to keep the memento going to keep your evaluators engaged. If you have a particularly bad period or host of ideas that are not up to scratch this can take its toll on any passionate evaluator. You can use the following solutions to address issues that may arise:

Issue Solution
More important things to do. Make sure your senior leaders have ideas high on the agenda so this will influence your evaluators and create an innovation culture. If they are really passionate, ideally you could write the evaluation role into the individuals job description / objectives.
These are all the same ideas It can be frustrating if your evaluators are seeing repeat ideas; why not have a gatekeeper to vet the ideas before they reach your evaluator.
Higher priority changes take precedent If it’s a great idea work with the evaluator to build a strong case, the more insight they have the better position they are to access the idea and prioritise it.
Is this making a difference? Some evaluators might not get to see how ideas are making a difference. Make sure you keep them in the loop as you do with the suggestors.
No budget/resource Some ideas need to be backed from the top, make sure the good ones are not being lost due to the limitations of the business area in question. If it’s a good idea make sure the right people get to see it.

Each evaluator is different and some will require more attention than others. By building a strong relationship you can work together to ensure that ideas stay as a high priority and both suggestors and evaluators see the impact that innovation can have on the business.