View from Ben Macdui shared from http://www.flickr.com/photos/25709664@N00/502365457/.
In the innovation landscape, many local minima occur: ideas which are better than their peers in the immediate locality, but not necessarily the best overall. These ideas are often very different in character: perhaps one is a service, another a product; one is cheaper but the other has added benefits, one solves two problems and creates another, whilst the other is only partially a solution. Comparing them is like comparing the heights of different mountains – or the depths of valleys – by walking over them and looking from one to the other, without recourse to GPS. Like the mountaineers of past generations, who once thought Ben MacDui, not Ben Nevis, was the highest mountain in the UK, innovators naturally find it challenging to judge ideas against one another simply by exploring them.
Instead a different perspective is required: a bird’s eye view, if you will. This is where criteria become incredibly important. It’s really key to understand from the outset what makes a good idea, what you really care about, how much you value different attributes. Spending time up front exploring criteria for success is rarely wasted, and often comes up with surprising answers. It’s not quite a black and white as GPS, but it certainly beats a random walk.