An efficient idea prioritization process helps you select the innovation projects with the greatest potential for positive results for your organization.

With a structured innovation process, through the implementation of an ideas program, the use of design thinking and brainstorming methods, a large number of innovation ideas can be generated. And that’s amazing, it’s great to have multiple opportunities in front of you, isn’t it? But the reality is that you will hardly be able to implement them all at once, and not all ideas deserve equal attention, investment, and effort to be implemented.

Having a large number of ideas raises an interesting question and challenge for companies: How do you know what to do with all these ideas? How to decide which ones to start acting on first? How to choose the best ideas to implement?

Turning ideas into real innovations and opportunities comes at a cost, including time, money, and resources, and trying to execute too many ideas at once can lead to poor overall delivery. Therefore, it is necessary to balance quick wins with larger and long-term projects to create a viable and sustainable innovation portfolio. And this is possible through an efficient idea prioritization process, with the analysis, identification, and selection of ideas with the greatest potential for positive results for the organization.

What is idea prioritization?

  Idea prioritization is a method of ranking ideas in order of importance, based on specific criteria established by the organization. For this purpose, many organizations use an idea scoring mechanism, which means considering factors such as: strategy, effort, investment, and importance to estimate the value of each idea, and then quantify this value by assigning a numerical score.

That is, idea prioritization helps companies save time by focusing on the most important ideas, tasks, processes, and activities. Combined with your business goals and strategy, a prioritization matrix helps you select the best projects and ideas, preventing your organization from wasting time and resources on low-value projects.

Why is idea prioritization so important?

 Before going further on how to prioritize ideas, let’s understand why it is so important to adopt a prioritization method, as it is more effective to follow a defined method for the following reasons:

Consensus among evaluators: following an objective process for ranking ideas can reduce or resolve conflicts among the team of evaluators, making it easier to agree on choosing the idea that has the most value.

Streamlined resource allocation: it is a fact that your company’s resources are limited. Therefore, prioritizing specific innovation projects helps companies to analyze and identify when and where to invest their resources. Effective prioritization involves determining which projects are most expensive and whether current resources can support those projects and whether they meet the needs and requirements of the business and its customers.

Executing the right ideas: the best innovative projects are those that meet business objectives and maximize return on investment. With data and criteria-based prioritization, you can choose the right projects and ideas more easily and quickly. Ranking each idea protects you from implementing ideas that don’t fit the organization’s goals, forcing you to consider how each idea supports your overall plan.

Optimizing time and preventing waste: even large teams face capacity issues. Chances are you and your team don’t have time to implement all the good ideas you come across, and you need to focus on the most important ones. Prioritization helps you allocate this resource wisely.

Increased transparency: by using the same method and prioritization criteria for all ideas, you will have a transparent and standardized way to help you make your decisions.

How to prioritize ideas?

 Here are some steps that can be used as a reference for you to create your own prioritization structure:

  1. Effective prioritization starts before the ideation stage

  The task of prioritizing your ideas starts even before the ideas are generated. Aligning organizational goals and innovation strategy from the onset is essential to focus on campaigns to capture ideas, ensuring that the ideas generated are relevant to consumers, customers, and your business.

  1. Set goals

Setting clear goals can help you focus on the most important ideas. To get where you want to go, try to focus on setting simple, achievable goals for your idea management process. For example: What is our strategic objective? How does this idea help us achieve these objectives?

  1. Establish evaluation criteria

To prioritize innovations for implementation, you can use an idea categorization method. This requires establishing criteria that meet your business targets. Therefore, you should identify a set of criteria for evaluating ideas and determining which ones will go on to implementation projects, including all the factors you must consider to effectively prioritize these projects.

For you to find the best set of evaluation criteria, keep it simple and focus on defining the most important criteria, as complex prioritization processes will take a long time, confuse evaluators, and lead you in the wrong direction.

Below is a list of characteristics that can be analyzed and used for building the criteria of your idea selection process:

  • Return on revenue and profitability;
  • Alignment with strategic directions;
  • Meeting customer needs;
  • Competitive advantage over competitors;
  • Proposal risks and contingency plan;
  • Restrictions applied by regulatory agencies, laws, and others;
  • Deployment complexity;
  • Probability of technical feasibility (e.g.: availability of technology, investment, time);
  • Probability of commercial success.

But don’t forget! The team of experts must work together to create the prioritization criteria, which ensures a more balanced and comprehensive assessment. Let’s analyze in greater detail the most important factors and criteria:

Criteria related to the complexity of implementing the idea:

Technology: does the technology needed to implement the idea exist and is it available or does it still need to be developed/purchased?

Investment: what is the cost required for implementation?

Time: how long does it take to implement the idea?

Technical and operational feasibility: does your organization have access to the technical and operational resources needed to execute the idea?

Market related criteria:

Market demand: what are the potential customers for this specific idea? Are there consumers who may purchase the product/service?

Competition: do competitors have similar products/services? Does the idea create a competitive advantage?

Criteria related to return on investment:

Aspects related to the expected financial return of the innovation to be implemented must be considered. Usually, specific calculations such as Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Payback Period are used.

Value for consumers:

Relevance: is the idea compelling and does it respond to an apparent unmet consumer need?

Ease of use: how easy is it for consumers to use the idea?

Specific criteria:

Impact on Safety: does the idea reduce or create a risk of accidents at work?

Environmental impact: does the idea reduce or create environmental risks?

Impact on people: how can the work environment improve? How can the idea positively impact people?

  1. Establish the score values for the criteria:

Once you’ve chosen your criteria, it’s time to set a score ranking based on their importance. Assign a weight to each criterion you list, determining how important each criterion is to your organization. For example, you can assign a numerical value to each criterion and implement a standard scoring system.

There is no right or wrong in assigning scores, you just choose the model or scale that best fits your organizational goals.

  1. Evaluate and rate ideas

After defining the criteria and scoring values, now is the time to evaluate these ideas. Be sure to include the right people in the idea prioritization process to get the best assessments. Hence, bring together the people and areas with the knowledge and experience necessary for decision-making (such as customers, employees, domain experts, etc.) and have them respond individually to the assessment to arrive at a relevant and objective perspective.

When everyone has finished their individual assessment, start calculating the weighted score for each respondent. In general, to conduct this step, depending on the type of matrix you have defined to calculate and add the score, usually, the score of each option is multiplied by the weight of the related criterion to obtain each cumulative score. Spreadsheets and innovation management software can help you in this process.

Then, compare the results, making sure to keep the assessment unbiased. Discuss the divergent points with your team until a consensus decision is reached. Finalize the idea score ranking, and build a priority list, sorting your list of ideas from top to bottom, according to the highest values, to quickly assess the most influential ones.

Now that you’ve selected the best innovative ideas and projects to work on, it’s time to develop a solid plan for executing them.

Meet SoftExpert ICM

 Now that you know how to prioritize ideas, how about learning more about a solution that will help you in this process? To enable managing the entire ideation process, evaluate and prioritize ideas easily, an innovation solution that allows you to prioritize ideas in an agile and structured way can help you a lot throughout this process, making it much more transparent.

SoftExpert ICM is an idea management solution that allows you to use automatic idea scoring, a more efficient way to prioritize ideas. You can also define your own evaluation criteria, collect data, and make the best decisions, as the software presents which ideas best meet the established criteria.

Adopting an approach for prioritizing and scoring ideas results in better decisions for you and your customers. Define the strategy, capture ideas, and prioritize your innovative projects with SoftExpert ICM!

I want to know SoftExpert ICM

And if you want to learn more about innovation management, check out our content on the subject:

Innovation Management: How to implement it

Innovation Management: Discover its potential for your organization

Daiane Loeffler


Daiane Loeffler

Daiane Loeffler is a Business Analyst at SoftExpert. She holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from UNISOCIESC, a specialization in Process Engineering from Sustentare Business School, and a specialization in Pharmaceutical Engineering from Instituto Racine. She is experienced in the Processes and Quality Systems areas and has expertise on Good Manufacturing Practices, Risk Management, Audits, Root Cause Analysis, CAPA, FMEA, PPAP, APQP and Six Sigma.

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