Idea Journey Part 1: Ideation and Evaluation

Finding good ideas is an important aspect when wanting to innovate. How can you identify the most promising ones from a pool of ideas? Which ideas do you transfer to other systems and processes? The answer is: you do it with the help of various evaluation methods.


And then the Idea Journey (journey of an idea) continues. An idea usually has a long way to go before it becomes a fully implemented product or project. In our series on the Idea Journey, we explain how this can be done to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible. The first part focuses on ideation, i.e., idea generation and the evaluation of ideas. The second part deals with the next steps up to the finished result: the first implementation, the validation, and the transfer of an implemented idea into daily business.


“At Siemens, there is the saying: Siemens doesn’t have an idea problem. But an idea alone doesn’t make an innovation. Only when you transform an idea into a product it is an innovation.”


This is how Dr. Christian Homma, Senior Innovation Manager at our customer Siemens, aptly describes the need for an Idea Journey. The starting point is always ideas. For this reason, many companies already have a process for generating ideas. Be it a company suggestion scheme, where employees can submit ideas for improvement, or thematic challenges, where solutions are sought to concrete challenges. There are many ways to innovate with employees. But how do you select the most promising ideas and suggestions from the many available?


To ensure that the submitted ideas already have a certain structure and a good chance of implementation, it is important to involve the appropriate stakeholders right from the start. When it comes to improvements or new products, it makes sense to involve the proper business units as early as the formulation of the question. After all, nothing is more disastrous for a good idea than a business unit that doesn’t want it. So the closer the collaboration between the individual internal stakeholders, the better for the ideas that emerge. In this way, the next step, the evaluation, can also have a higher potential for the company, for example, by having experts from the specialist departments evaluate ideas. But more on this later.


Why evaluating ideas is important

A really important step on the Idea Journey is the evaluation. It is the barrier that gives the idea an initial quality seal and the chance for further development. An evaluation step is important because an incredible number of ideas can be generated in the initial brainstorming and idea collection phase. To follow up on all these ideas would be an enormous investment of time and resources.


That’s why it’s important to do an initial sorting early on. Which ideas have such great potential that they should be pursued further?


There are several ways to filter out these ideas. The first question is who can and should make such a selection. A large number of people or a small group of selected evaluators who, for example, have an expertise in the field of the idea. A combination of both is also conceivable.


The intelligence of the many

If you let a large number of people, such as all employees, participate in an evaluation, you can determine the best ideas through the majority principle via likes or the distribution of stars. If many people think that this idea is good and should be pursued, then there must be something to it. Especially in internal voting, all participants have a sound knowledge of the company’s processes, strengths, and weaknesses. This allows them to assess which ideas are most likely to move the company forward.


Internal crowdfunding, i.e., the allocation of virtual budgets to ideas by employees, also methodically relies on the intelligence of the many. But funding in which each sponsor is allowed to distribute a certain amount increases the evaluation’s weighting. If you are allowed to distribute an infinite number of likes, you are very likely to be quite generous. If you are allowed to distribute five stars to ideas, you are more frugal with them. But if a monetary value is attached to one’s assessment, which ultimately also finances the implementation, the pros and cons of funding are weighed even more carefully.


Evaluation in more dimensions

Another way to evaluate ideas is through expert evaluation. Here, the main aim is to have the evaluation carried out by a closed group of people. This could be, for example, the budget owners, the affected business unit, or other relevant stakeholders. If the basis for the question has already been laid together with the associated business unit, an evaluation by the appropriate contacts is particularly advisable. All of the above options can also be carried out with a closed group.


Another possibility is evaluation according to selected criteria. In this method, there is often a smaller group of experts who evaluate the ideas and proposals submitted. These evaluators are, for example, contact persons from the respective department, funders, or people with expertise in the appropriate field.


Also, some criteria have been established in advance, according to which all experts make their evaluation. Examples of such criteria would be the degree of innovation, relevance, market maturity, or simplicity of implementation. The expert evaluation then shows which ideas meet the most criteria and are thus prioritized for implementation. After all, just because an idea may not have been selected directly during the initial evaluation does not mean that this suggestion will not be exactly the right idea at a later time. For this reason, archives are often maintained where previously submitted ideas can be stored and searched as needed.


What next?

The evaluation has yielded a small set of ideas that are promising enough to be implemented. But what happens to these ideas now? Of course, this depends on the processes in the company and is handled very differently by different organizations. But no matter what the process is, the ideas are processed, aiming to implement them. You can find out what this looks like in Idea Journey Part 2: Testing and Validation.