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How to evaluate your idea – before you jump in!

What has been a silver lining for me of these strange times we live in? Besides exchanging actual pen pal letters with my nieces and nephews, it’s been inspiring to see how innovative we’re all being. We’re finding new ways to stay in touch, market our services and even do our jobs.

Many organizations, both for profit and nonprofit, are exploring new areas of business, building new products and finding new customers to serve. We have notebooks full of ideas!

It can be tempting to jump into any new idea that comes along, especially if you are 1) excited about it, 2) desperate for something new or 3) facing pressure from your employees, customers, leadership or board. I’ve been there! And I’ve also ended up disappointed in the work I’ve put into developing a new idea that wasn’t the right one.

It can take longer than you’d like to learn an idea is a bust. Better to pause at the start and ask a few questions that can help you evaluate your idea - before you jump in. In “Change By Design”, author and design thinking expert Tim Brown suggests asking the following:

Is it feasible?

Not every idea can be accomplished within your organization! Consider your resources (you can read a bit here about how to identify constraints) and be honest about what is possible.

Is it viable?

Your idea might get a lot of attention at the start, but that doesn’t mean that it’s sustainable within your organization. Pay attention to where the idea will reside long-term, who will manage it, and whether it can “stay alive” within your organization after it’s implemented.

Is it desirable?

Of course, your idea must fill a need for your customer – they have to want it! But an idea that works upon implementation must make sense internally as well. Make sure it’s something your team can get behind.

Take some time on your own (or better yet, with your team or advisors) to really answer these questions before you decide which of your ideas to spend energy on. You’ll likely save time, reduce frustration and achieve more promising outcomes.

Are you a nonprofit working on an earned revenue strategy? Here’s a downloadable guide that will help you ask the right questions as you plan.


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