Idea Screening in New Product Development

idea concept screen sieveIn a previous post, I explained a little bit about the first phase in developing new products: Discovery

Today, we’ll briefly visit the first review session in the product development process: The Idea Screen

Once you’ve generated plenty of ideas, you’ll need to evaluate them for viability, score them, and decide which ones you’ll want to further investigate.

Winning Criteria

First, you’ll want to establish criteria to judge each idea against. The criteria will often involve the following:

  • Alignment with your Product Innovation Strategy
  • Degree of compatibility with the company’s values & principles (ex: moral, health, environmental)
  • Market attractiveness / opportunity
  • Project feasibility
  • Degree of product advantage over other options
  • Ability to leverage existing company resources

From the book “Launch It!“, the authors give in the first chapters some great questions to ask when evaluating your own ideas. A number of “No”s should indicate the idea needs some work or should be scrapped. Here are the questions (in my own words):

  1. Does the product represent something completely new and different from anything out there in the marketplace? Would it likely appeal to a specialty/niche segment of people?
  2. Does the idea have a unique design to it, that’ll make it appeal to more people than a comparable product does now?
  3. Will this idea offer a noticeably superior quality in comparison to competitive offerings? If so, can it remain in the same price range as those competitive products?
  4. If it’s a popular item (in terms of category volume), would you be able to noticeably lower its price without affecting its quality?
  5. Is the idea able to offer enough new features to differentiate it from the competition? If so, to what degree would these additional features be of value or seen as advantageous?
  6. For popular products, will your idea enable you to produce and distribute it faster than the competition? Importantly, will this matter? Popular competitive products may carry a strong brand appeal which may be too high a hurdle. However, if the product category is a bit more commoditized, then speed to market will definitely be a strong advantage.
  7. How much longevity does your product idea have? Is it part of an established category of products, a trend, or a fad? Having a grip on this is crucial. I’m not saying some product categories are no-growth, sometimes it depends on the sales channel. But obviously you don’t want to base a lot of business on a me-too product whose lifespan may only last a few years.
  8. Similar to #7, how new is this idea compared to existing products in your portfolio or pipeline? Buyers are likely to be approached next season by similar products with the additional features and attributes you’ll be pitching. If you’re redesigning a SKU to extend its lifespan, that may be fine. But ultimately, you should try and have additional, newer concepts in your development pipeline.

The Review Session

The format for the review session and how it’s conducted is up to each firm. Here are some tips:

  • Allow transparency into the presentations and foster open discussion. The more people that feel they are a part of the process, the larger the buy in will be. Personnel from Sales, Marketing, R&D, and PDD (Product Design and Development) are the key attendees to these sessions. Communicate to them the decision-making criteria and the primary aspects of the Product Innovation Strategy.
  • Create standardized idea forms for presenters to fill-out and distribute. Fields include: product definition, target market, explanation of user benefits, and criteria against which the ideas are judged, and a sketch (if applicable).
  • With a large number of ideas and participants, create voting schemes. This could involve having idea cards/boards set up around the presentation room, and giving every participant a number of votes. Voting by raised hands can work, but perhaps it might be best to give people post-its to place on the ideas they like, then tally the votes. Techniques may vary – the idea is that participation is important.

Once you’ve selected your winning ideas, place them into an idea portfolio. Any ideas leftover that had some terrific potential, but for some reason couldn’t make the cut, should be stored in an idea bank for future review. There might be a new sales channel opening at a future date, through which these older ideas may be of value.

When you’re ready, continue to the next phase in concept development: Scoping

For more information on the various phases in NPD, visit the master page on The Stage-Gate Model of New Product Development