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Ideas that Produce Results #2: Prioritize Your Ideas (Or, Choose or You Lose

by Sarah Thrift on February 3, 2014

Last week, we looked at how to ensure your idea will meet a genuine need.

But suppose you have lots of ideas that could be successful. Should you implement all of them?


The first step is to write down precisely what each of your ideas is. If you are working with others, make sure that this list of ideas represents the ideas of everyone. The fact of writing them down is really important so that everyone can see them—for example, on a flip chart. This is because when we have to write something down it forces us to be more precise and in so doing refines and strengthens the ideas. People often think they know what your idea is, and/or you think you know what others’ ideas are. But when you actually see them on paper you realize that you had a different understanding. Even if you are working on your own, I still strongly encourage this step, since writing it down will require the necessary precision to be able to deliver a successful idea.

Once you have this comprehensive list, you want to assess each idea for two things: (1) what would be the potential financial/social impact based on the work you already did in step one last week; (2) how easy or difficult it will be to deliver, for example, what skills do you/your organisation already have in this domain. Based on these two factors you should prioritize your list of ideas.

Now the emotive and sometimes thorny question of how many ideas is reasonable. Having worked with hundreds of organizations, I really don’t think that trying to do any more than three big ideas at once works. Simply put, your attention and focus is too dispersed. In fact, I would argue that at times it is best to focus on one idea and then to do that really well.

Remember: your other ideas are not lost. They are precious. You are not saying never to those ideas; what you are saying is that you can come back to these once you have progressed with one or more other ideas.

Great! See you next week where we will talk about the importance of getting alignment behind the idea(s).


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