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The Art of Selection: The Killer Idea

There’s a process we use at Rubicon that sounds kind of mean.

Us, mean, you ask?

Never! But the name of our process certainly sounds tough; it’s the Murder Board process.

It’s where the collective brains of the organization get together to discuss options and alternatives for client solutions. And you know what we do? We kill loads of good ideas to get to the best idea. It requires discernment, and an idea of what is really needed. Rather than ever present what I dub “the 99 idea slide,” we aim for the best idea that will cause success.

Some people find this uncomfortable. After all, what would it take to find the best idea? What is it that makes one idea better than others? And what will provide that clarity of thought for you and your leadership team? The art of selection is really just that: the action or fact of carefully choosing so you end up with the best-or winning-idea. Let us take you behind the scenes to enable you to do the same in-house.

Our last edition of the company newsletter dealt with the ways to generate big ideas. The discussion centered on the notion that all of us (and not just the “creative geniuses” among us) can open our minds to creative concepts in a way that enables us to formulate a set of alternative visions. Let’s assume for a moment we can produce a flood of new directions and options to pursue. Cool. Good. But now what?
The key to going from 99 ideas to the Winning Idea is this: A team needs to ultimately come together and decide what makes an idea right for that group. The key is to figure out what will make the idea the killer idea for your team’s effort, for the current context, for the situation your company is already in, and what is within your grasp to influence. In other words, what can work given your unique gifts, your leadership team, and your company’s strengths?

Over the years, our clients have given us plenty of opportunities to take small ideas and nurture them. We’ve developed tools and processes that make the selection process repeatable. Regardless of where in the organization change needs to happen, here’s a framework for selecting ideas:

  1. Agree on the situation. Almost all complex corporate situations are difficult to describe. In fact, if it were easy, the problem would likely already be solved. Getting a clear picture is key to moving forward. If everyone can agree on which problem or opportunity you want to address, they can work together to sort ideas. Part of this process is making sure that everyone is heard and comes together.
  2. Realize what’s important to fix the situation. Second, develop a set of parameters for filtering your ideas. A good solution for any organization needs to fit within some parameters. Some examples we’ve seen from our clients: our fix needs to fit with our current channel model; the solution needs to be revenue neutral in the first year; the solution needs to be funded by organic growth; we cannot create new product offers until the second year of execution; etc. The specific examples are but a small set of ideas; what is important is that the team decide what would make a solution really work for it. This process is not meant to be an exhaustive of every feature a solution needs to include, but rather is a means to understand the unspoken rules of the organization. This process requires maturity and business savvy. And at some level it’s about being focused.
  3. Sort your options based on these parameters. I almost always use a grid format. But I think that’s genetically coded into MBA types who have read hundreds of books and case studies. There are lots of filtering tools. Use your favorite one.
  4. Think about what is available to you, and then create better alternatives. At this point, the ideas you’ve got may be good, but they are unlikely to be sufficiently tailored to your specific situation. So now you and your team need to develop new alternatives that optimize toward a choosen outcome. There’s been some good work to describe the value maximizers create, and why they are needed for this phase of the selection process. We feel generating new alternatives as a group is the heart of an organization’s strength. Your team’s ability to come up with something good will be based on the talent of the people involved and their ability to co-create toward a bigger goal.
  5. Pick. Make the call. Consciously choose the best alternative. It’s worth saying. You can select the one that is most comfortable and/or doable, but this is also a chance to choose what is best, and build your capabilities to raise yourself and the industry up.

Developing the winning idea has to involve people and courage. People because they have the expertise, can authorize action, and are needed to implement it. They need to be committed because it is through their combined efforts that things are ultimately made real. This is where talking at folks needs to stop, and listening, thinking and discernment needs to happen. Courage, because it takes courage to be open to new ideas, reconsider ideas that you may have developed and choose a truly killer idea.

We wish you much joy as you lead your organization in finding your own winning ideas.

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