A Packaging Approach for Evaluating Ideas
Book chapter, 2014
In this chapter an approach for idea evaluation is explored. Idea evaluation can be seen as the first stage in a sustainable business development process eventually resulting in solutions that are more sustainable – ecologically, socially and economically. Not all evaluated ideas become reality. However, the more the potentials of an idea are identified and expressed, the more likely it is for the idea to gain momentum and attract more resources. Our approach to idea evaluation differs from established theory in many ways. It combines characterization of future societal, customer and business utilities of an idea. It is not a full business plan committing stakeholders towards the execution of a business. It focuses on the creative packaging and communication of the idea in ways that enable future and often not yet identified stakeholders to be attracted to the idea, thereby hopefully helping to bring it forward.
We call our perspective the “packaging approach” to idea evaluation. Packaging ideas is seen as an activity of determining and communicating attributes around an idea relevant to various stakeholders as well as to society at large. Ideas can be seen as a package in both the “gift-wrapping” sense of the word – making ideas attractive – and the “parcel” sense of the word: giving ideas new destinations, inspiring new settings and people. Ultimately we believe that the knowledge economy is a place where well-packaged ideas mobilize new entrepreneurial mindsets in order to drive sustainable development.
A successful packaging of a new idea requires the ability to position an idea in a future attractive situation of use, while at the same time being very clear and realistic about the current state of the idea. This combined visionary and realistic packaging gives ideas the power to inspire towards long-term opportunities (visionary power) as well as lowering entrance barriers (through realistic descriptions and advice) for anyone aspiring to take the idea further. It is known from our innovation history that good ideas often take unexpected and parallel routes to success (see e.g. van de Ven et al., 2000). Making ideas well-packaged helps leverage this often non-linear, distributed and interactive stakeholder process around the nature of innovation processes.
In short, idea evaluation in our “packaging approach” results in a seven-page report and matched PowerPoint presentation. This format, of course, is not static. However, it is the pragmatic result of several years of idea evaluation practice in the Gothenburg innovation system. The format forces the evaluator to think through a clear disposition (package) of the idea evaluation and is sufficiently long (but not too long) for this package to attract the interest of new or existing stakeholders around an idea. We propose that an idea package address the following issues:
1. Describing the idea (functionality, novelty, freedom to operate, etc.)
2. Generating value visions around situations of use
3. Determining next steps in terms of further
developments and financial needs