Our overnight idea screening tool, Ideas Overnight, has become a big hit with our clients. Since launching in March of 2014, over 30 clients in the US have used the tool to expedite and improve their innovation process.

Interestingly, we still receive the occasional question of whether or not idea screening is a “validated” tool. Clients who aren’t quantitatively screening their ideas want to know whether or not idea screening can predict later concept scores (and, by extension, success in the market). I’ll admit that I have often taken this for granted as the typical non-quantitative ways ideas are vetted (like “power dotting”) are replete with social biases, and do not reflect the voice of the broader consumer population. But solid evidence that idea screening is a valid tool has been lacking – until now. The purpose of this article is to discuss and share our validation R&D.

Nature and Nurture

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 12.57.17 PMWhen addressing the validity of idea screening, one is essentially trying to understand the contribution of the concept’s “core idea” to overall concept acceptance, relative to positioning and price. Or in other words, “How important is my core idea to concept acceptance?” The other side of the coin is the contribution that other concept elements (i.e., price, positioning, etc.) have on concept acceptance – or “How important is positioning to concept acceptance?” In many ways, these questions are analogous to the centuries-old debate around the relative contribution of Nature (genetics) and Nurture (environment) – with the core idea representing Nature and the positioning representing Nurture.

• The Nature view would be that the core idea drives the vast majority of variation in concept scores – a sort of genetic pre- determinism of new product development: a great idea cannot be held back, even despite poor positioning.

• The Nurture view would hold that concept success is primarily driven by concept positioning – a sort of tabula rasa view of product development: even a lackluster idea can be made successful through great positioning.

If the “Nature” view was true, the implications would be that you should stop wasting your time developing concepts, and focus solely on idea screening. If the “Nurture” view was true, it would suggest that you do not need to screen your ideas at all. Simply choose one and spend your time on positioning it well. Of course, the notion of Nature versus Nurture is a naïve one. Across many domains, research has amply demonstrated that both of them play an important role and interact with each other – what is of interest is the relative influence of each.

The Impact of Ideas

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 12.57.25 PMTo understand the relative contribution of a concept’s core idea and quantitatively validate idea screening, we conducted extensive R&D. First, we took about a year’s worth of fully-developed concepts that we had tested in the U.S., and brought them back to an idea-level stimulus. Next, we tested the core idea statements via our Ideas Overnight tool and then correlated key measures from the idea test with the corresponding KPIs from the concept tests.

Our results clearly support the importance and validity of idea screening: we found that the idea-level measures correlated between +0.6 to +0.7 with concept measures – a very strong relationship given the large difference in stimuli. Thus, the core idea of your concept represents from 36-50% of the variation seen in concept scores.

The implications of these findings are clear: because the core idea is so important, starting out with a solid, quantitatively-vetted idea will increase your chances of concept success. In fact, the magnitude of the results suggests that you cannot have a winning concept without a solid core idea.

On the flip side, the results also clearly indicate the importance of positioning – without solid positioning, even a good idea can fail to pass as a concept. Both of them, a strong core idea and excellent positioning, are necessary for concept success – but neither of them are sufficient by themselves.

Filling Your Pipeline

Many clients ask us how to go about getting good ideas. When this happens, we like to quote Linus Pauling – two-time Nobel Laureate and all around smart guy:

“If you want to good ideas, you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away.”

Most clients are really good about the first part. There are lots of great qualitative approaches as well as market analyses to help generate new ideas. It is the second part – learning which ones to throw away – where many clients can come up short.

With Ideas Overnight, we’ve overcome the barrier of time – you no longer have to wait weeks to get your results and you can incorporate quantitative idea screening without impacting your timelines. Unfetter your Marketing team and let them generate as many ideas as they can – and then use a quantitatively-validated tool to identify which ones have the greatest chance for success.

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