Post It or Past It? Three Ways to Spot a Great Idea

Last Updated Apr 27, 2010 5:02 AM EDT

Over the past six months I have noticed that more of my clients are interested in developing new growth ideas and initiatives.

But what makes a great business idea and how can you tell whether you have an iPhone or Sinclair C5 on your hands?

In my experience there are three broad factors on which your idea should score well. How many of the bullet points I've set out below match the reality of your new business ideas?

1. The idea resonates with customers and is different to anything else around
Nobody needs new products or services, and consumers are bombarded with thousands of new launches in most categories each year. To succeed, your business idea needs to offer your target customers something remarkable and meet these criteria.

  • It has clear, compelling and demonstrable customer benefits on issues that are important to them.
  • It is dramatically distinctive to other companies' offerings.
  • The concept is supported by unambiguous customer insight.
  • The concept is scaleable and you can see how it can evolve into further growth opportunities.
2. It is underpinned by a robust business model
I have found that many middle managers can identify interesting ideas from a customer perspective, but find it much harder to create a robust business case. Your idea will not get approval from your Finance Director unless the financials are clear and unambiguous.
  • As much effort has gone into the business model and how the company will turn a good idea into profitable growth, as has gone into the customer offer.
  • The proposed concept, including its pricing and profitably, is defendable against competitor reaction.
  • The downside risks of pursuing the new business are more than offset by the potential upside.
  • Preventative and contingent risk management actions are in place to maximise the chances of success, including the use of trials and prototyping.
3. The organisation is committed to its success
New businesses need to be nurtured. It is unlikely that version #1 will be successful, and the determination to go through a series of prototypes will be required if the idea is to reach its potential.
  • The organisation has the capacity and capability -â€" including the skills and knowledge of its people, the quality of its technology, and its financial resources -â€" to deliver the new business.
  • Senior managers and executives are willing and able to give it the time and focus to ensure success.
  • The managers proposing the concept not only have the credibility and capability implement and operate the new business effectively, but also demonstrate the passion to make it happen.
(Pic: elsie esq cc2.0)
  • Stuart Cross

    Stuart Cross is a founder of Morgan Cross Consulting, which helps companies find new ways to drive substantial, profitable growth. His clients include Alliance Boots, Avon and PricewaterhouseCoopers.