You designed the perfect challenge and engaged your employees. You gathered amazing ideas and feedback and have selected a handful of ideas to drive forward. What do you do next?

It’s time to validate the best ideas. Validation is a process where you empirically test a series of assumptions or hypotheses for an idea using sprints. The goal is to quickly learn if you're on the right track or not by running experiments and gathering data to inform your next steps.

Nailing this process is crucial, since going down the wrong path or putting the wrong solution into motion can be expensive and frustrating. We love the desirability, feasibility and viability framework to help you organize your hypotheses and pinpoint where to get started.

By following this framework, you’ll strike the balance of what you want to get done, what you’re able to get done and what you can keep doing long term — all of which are vital to successful innovation. Here’s how to get started.

Start with what truly matters

When you have several ideas to consider, a common reaction is to eliminate ideas that seem too unfamiliar, expensive or complicated to pursue. You might rely on assumptions about barriers and risks, without giving each idea a fair evaluation.

The unfortunate reality is that it's too easy to say "No" to just about anything. Learning how to evaluate ideas with an empirically-driven approach reduces the risk of assumptions or bias killing a great idea, or conversely driving the wrong idea forward.

As you begin validating ideas with experimentation your primary focus should be on desirability. Does this idea have merit because it could actually solve the problem? Do people actually want it? Does it satisfy a need? This step seems simple, but it often proves challenging to initially focus on desirability and resist getting lost in feasibility and viability.

Think about your audience

Desirability for who? It’s important to remind yourself who should be desiring the outcome at hand. In other words, who is the "customer" of this idea? Identifying the appropriate audience is crucial, because each audience has unique needs. Focusing on the wrong audience — or too broad of an audience — will make the validation of your solution less effective. Moreover, each audience has different priorities, so you'll want to start by tackling the highest priority items on their list.

For internal, process-based ideas, you’ll need to think from the perspective of employees:

  • What are the jobs to be done by our employees in the process?
  • Will this solution actually help our employees achieve a better outcome?
  • Will this solution actually make our team more efficient and effective?

Likewise, for external challenges, you’ll want to think from the perspective of a specific customer segment s or marketplace:

  • What are the jobs to be done by the customer?
  • Does this solution help customers achieve a better outcome in those jobs to be done?
  • Does this solution address a genuine opportunity or fill a gap in the market?

Asking these types of questions will help you stay focused on what really matters: moving the needle where it will actually make a difference.

Keep an open mind

As you can imagine, validating new ideas requires an open mind. You should resist making assumptions based on what you’ve done in the past or other preconceived notions or barriers. Keep asking yourself, "Do we actually know the answer, or are we making an assumption? If we're making an assumption, how can we find out?" Ideally, every assumption should be tested. As Jeff Bezos said, "If you know it's going to work, it's not an experiment!"

Focusing on the outcome you desire is the key — and getting there can take many forms. Ultimately the best idea is always a desirable idea, and it might be something you haven't considered before. Ironically, it will often be something you haven't considered before!

Get tactical

After you’ve validated your high priority assumptions based on desirability, you can start evaluating them based on feasibility and viability. A feasible idea is one that you have the operational capacity to actually carry out.

Ideally, a feasible idea will leverage your existing strengths to take your business to the next level; the more you need to add to your capabilities to accomplish the idea, the riskier it becomes for you. Start by assessing your strengths, weaknesses and capacity in order to determine how feasible a given idea is.

Finally you’ll need to make sure your idea is viable — in other words, making sure the idea is profitable and sustainable in the long term. Predicting the future is no small task, but you can start by asking yourself if your customers will be willing to pay for your new solution, if your employees will be willing to adopt the new solution or if your market will continue to need this solution in the years to come. These future-focused ideas are the key to viability.

Finding the best idea, every time

Ultimately, you only want to test and implement ideas that have merit, and this requires you first learn to quickly identify which ideas are desirable. With continued use of this framework, you’ll get better at discovering winning ideas over time, helping you become more agile and responsive.

For more information on how to make your validation process as seamless as possible, learn why your innovation plan should have a central source of truth.

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