Developing a new idea? Now’s the time to be critical

David Moskal Innovation 0 Comments

We’ve all seen entrepreneurs on Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank pitching their idea and pouring their heart out because they are so passionate about it. Some say they’ve even remortgaged their home or spent their retirement money to fund their idea, only to hit a death threat that puts the idea in jeopardy. The Dragons or Sharks beg them to stop investing in their idea and kill it before it’s too late.Frustrated innovator

What a defeating feeling. Imagine investing a bunch of time and money into an idea, only to find a roadblock that is immovable. All those hours and dollars become a sunk cost and leave you wishing you had seen this coming earlier. This happens more often than you’d think – and even multi-million dollar companies experience it.

It’s all too easy to become so immersed in your new idea that you only focus on all the cool new features that your product or service might have. But using a critical eye to evaluate your product or service is just as (if not more) important in the development process. We call them death threats because they could kill your idea if left unchecked. The lesson? Call them out early so that they can be dealt with. Leaving them unchecked puts your project (and its success) at risk.

Death Threat: Something that could kill your idea

At inVision, part of our innovation process involves identifying the death threats early on. When you decide to pursue an idea further, research everything you can about it – especially before any money is put towards it.

During that research process, we identify any potential death threats. These could be things you know for certain or things that could be triggers that could derail your idea. Ignorance isn’t bliss — so call out those death threats so that they can be explored further.

Examples of potential death threats:

  • Government regulation might not allow our idea
  • Customers might not pay for the idea
  • The idea depends on a partnership that hasn’t happened yet

Once you’ve come up with a list of death threats, organize them from the most important to the least important. Think of it like this: “If I can’t resolve this death threat, can my idea move forward?” You’ll begin with the death threat that is the most “threatening” to your idea, and work the list from there.

An Innovation Engineering Yellow Card. There is space on the card to identify the death threat to the idea and what you'll do to learn more about that threat.

An Innovation Engineering Yellow Card. There is space on the card to identify the death threat to the idea and what you’ll do to learn more about that threat.

For every death threat you identify, formulate a plan for how you’ll learn more about it. From those learnings, you’ll make a decision:

  • Dissolve the death threat: You’ve identified actions that you can take that will overcome the death threat. Now you can move on to the next one on your list.
  • Research further: Perhaps you have to talk to an expert in the field to see if you can find a work-around to your death threat before you can overcome it.
  • Kill the idea: That’s right – if you’ve identified a death threat and through your research, have not identified a way to minimize or deal with the threat, it’s time to kill the idea. The good news is that you’ve done your research before you’ve spent money developing the idea further — so consider yourself fortunate that you’ve saved time, money, and other resources you would have spent had you not identified that threat to your idea.

Addressing death threats early will save you a lot of pain down the road. If you are able to overcome all of the death threats early on, you will have a much better chance of succeeding in the marketplace. We call it the “fail fast, fail cheap” approach — and when we kill an idea during an innovation project in the inVision office, we celebrate and move on to the next idea.

Reduce your innovation risk by calling out and researching death threats early on in the process. Don’t end up like those folks on Dragon’s Den who are being encouraged to abandon their idea after many years (and many dollars) of development because of a death threat they didn’t want to see.

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