Hey! What’s the Big Idea?

March 27th, 2010 by hoha Leave a reply »

Today I had the privilege of being a judge in a business idea competition called techTitans. Students were asked to submit a 2 page summary of their idea and how they thought they could make money with it. There had been over 50 submissions and had been narrowed down to 10 who then presented their ideas to our panel.

They were bio-science, technology, and consumer products. All of them were very good and fun to learn about. When it came time to deliberate the question surfaced of how to evaluate a good idea. Not closest to market, most impactful or best presentation or even team composition but purely just the most innovative idea. Quickly it was hemmed in with the condition that it had to be somewhat feasible. After that however everyone struggled a little and fell back on the other criteria.

I used an innovative (a combination of things in a new way) vs optimization (building a better mousetrap) filter initially but that only got me so far. As I pondered further on my drive home I reflected back on both the work of Everett Rogers (who I mentioned in an earlier post) and the work of the Heath Brothers (authors of Made to Stick).

Rogers talks about several characteristics that facilitate adoption of a technology (in this case an idea):

  1. Relative Advantage-Is it better than what is out there already?
  2. Compatibility-Do I have to change my life in order to use the technology?
  3. Complexity-Is it too hard to be worth it?
  4. Trialability- Can I easily give it a test run without too many negative consequences?
  5. Observability-Can others easily observe the innovation?

Chip and Dan Heath, who also currently write for Fast Company, elaborated further by claiming sticky (or successful) ideas had the following characteristics:

  1. Simple — find the core of any idea
  2. Unexpected — grab people’s attention by surprising them
  3. Concrete — make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later
  4. Credibility — give an idea believability
  5. Emotion — help people see the importance of an idea
  6. Stories — empower people to use an idea through narrative

I wonder how the teams would have scored if we had used any of these criteria instead?

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