One of the most important skills a manager and a business leader must have is the ability to quickly filter through information and ideas to pick the best one for a particular situation.
Concept Screening is a process that an organization can use to narrow down the number of ideas that are generated as options for new products or services – or just about anything else. In order to ensure that the strongest ideas are selected for further development, they need to be screened against certain criteria. Such criteria might include, but are not limited to: ideas that offer the most likelihood for success, market potential, most customer interest, biggest “Wow factor” or other qualitative or quantitative factors.
Concept Screening allows for potential products or services to be compared against current ones to garner a better understanding of how a new product will fare on the market. After all of this information has been gathered, every potential idea should be compared against the others to identify the one(s) that will be further developed. Notably, this process can also be used when organization members need to reach agreement about which potential idea to pursue.
The Concept Screening process involves four steps:
Step 1: Create the criteria against which potential ideas for a new product or service will be compared. The debate over the criteria will ultimately help the organization to identify potential issues that can be resolved before the product hits the market. Best practice suggests generating no more than 20 criteria. Think carefully about the ones you select to ensure that they are the most essential.
Step 2: Identify what existing product on the market either offered by the organization or its competitors will be the baseline against which the new ideas are compared. By pinpointing a comparison object it will be easier to determine what areas can be improved upon in a new product or service and what aspects of the new ideas need to be further developed to match market standards.
Step 3: Generate and compare the scores for the new product or service ideas against those of the existing products. In this step, compare each new item against the previously established criteria. The organization is free to develop its own scoring system but it can be anything as basic as assigning a -1, 0 or +1 to indicate that the new product or service is worse than, the same as or better than the new one, respectively. In general, it is best to select the option that scores better than what is currently being offered. However, before ruling out the other lower-scoring options, consider the ways in which they might be improved and how much it will cost the organization to make those improvements.
Step 4: Select one or more of the ideas to be further developed. During this step, make sure that each member of the innovation team agrees that the selected idea(s) make the most logical sense. This precaution is suggested to ensure that no mistakes were made during the selection process and so that everyone on the team will be committed to furthering the selected product or service.
Concept Screening is often considered an independent tool that supports innovation portfolio management and the stage gate process. I helped create a Concept Testing template we use at Praxie, and that we make freely available as a download. It’s simple and is based on best practices I’ve gathered in the 3 decades I’ve spent as a strategic business consultant.
About the Author
Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an Affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business, a columnist for Inc. Magazine, a globally recognized keynote speaker, and the Founder of Praxie. Business Insider and the Thinkers50 have named him one of the world’s top management thought leaders and consultants.