Does you work group repeatedly gravitate toward familiar ideas when innovation possibilities are considered? If that’s so, here’s an alternative prioritization strategy that could help break the cycle. It’s a typical four box prioritization grid, but with a twist.

Use “ease of implementation” for one axis, with a range of “simple” to “complex” to implement. 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 discussion on tendencies you have to prefer familiar, non-innovative 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). The key with both cells 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 inertia inside a company that thwarts developing new products and services.

For ideas seen as very comfortable, the vital question is how to inject new features and benefits making them more viable yet potentially increasing internal discomfort.

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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