Does your organization repeatedly gravitate toward comfortable ideas when you are assessing possible innovations? If that’s the case, try an alternative prioritization strategy, one that can help you break the cycle of safe innovation.

It’s a typical four-box prioritization grid, but with a twist to lead to productive strategic conversations.

Creating a Discomfort-Focused Prioritization Grid

  • Use ease of implementation for one axis, with a range of simple to complex to implement ideas.
  • On the other axis, instead of the more typical expected benefit, use the level of comfort with the idea and a very to not very scale (as shown in the diagram).

Having your group prioritize ideas in this way opens up new areas of strategic discussion on tendencies you have to prefer familiar, non-innovative ideas.



Facilitating Strategic Conversations about Innovative Ideas based on Comfort

Here's how to set up the strategic conversations on the varying ideas:

  • For simple, but uncomfortable ideas, focus on understanding what creates discomfort about the innovation.
  • For uncomfortable ideas more complex to implement, probe on whether there’s long-term potential that could create competitive advantage (or look for ways to implement the idea with greater ease).
  • For ideas seen as very comfortable, ask a vital question: How can we inject new features and benefits making them more viable while potentially increasing internal discomfort?

The key with uncomfortable ideas is getting to the heart of the innovation discomfort. Is it because there are significant flaws in the idea, or is it really because the idea is new, challenging, and unfamiliar?

If it’s the latter, that’s often a clear sign that the idea could yield tremendous potential for customers who aren’t part of the inertia inside a company that thwarts developing new products and services.

Try this approach and see what it does to move your group toward innovative possibilities that represent more dramatic market changes and impacts. - Mike Brown

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