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If you’ve read our blog before, you’re probably familiar with us ‘nerding out’ on what we know about using neuroscience and psychology to make better quality decisions when it comes to innovation. For the uninitiated, you can read Dr Shelley Logan’s post about it here.

Essentially, what we know is that the unconscious brain is remarkably better at making good quality decisions than the conscious brain, especially when there are lots of variables at play. Kind of perfect for making complex decisions for innovation. We see this type of intuitive decision making (going with your gut) used a lot when trying to decide which ideas to progress, and which to leave behind. But there’s an even bigger decision that should come first – what should you be generating ideas for in the first place?

In most organisations, there will always be a truck load of customer problems and opportunities for you to solve – and you’ll always have finite resources. You can’t do everything at once, so the question becomes: How should you prioritise these problems/opportunities? Lucky for us, Professor Clayton Christensen from Harvard University has already done a significant amount of research in this field. His work has been articulated brilliantly in Scott D. Anthony et al’s book ‘The Innovator’s Guide to Growth’. Here, they explain that there are three key things that really matter when it comes to prioritising which problems/opportunities to solve:

1.  How important is it to the customer?
2.  How frequently does it occur for the customer?
3.  How frustrated is the customer with today’s solutions?

The easiest way to apply this thinking in your organisation is to use the Opportunity Evaluation Formula. The formula is simple: (Importance + Frequency) X Frustration.

There are a number of different ways you can use the formula in practice, but we typically see these types of decisions being made by small working groups. So, below are three easy steps for how to prioritise your customer problems and opportunities as a group:

1.  Present each specific problem/opportunity to the group, one by one. Make sure that some background is given as to what the customer frustration is, and why the customer found that particular thing so frustrating.
2.  Relativity is important, so the next step is for people to work individually to rank the problems/opportunities by using the formula. For each problem/opportunity, individuals need to rank each element on a scale of 1 – 5. That is, 1 being not important, and 5 being critical. For example, a problem/opportunity could receive a score of 4 for importance, 1 for frequency, and 5 for frustration. Working these numbers through the formula would look like this: (4 + 1) X 5 = 25. At the end of this activity, each individual should have given each problem/opportunity a final score.
3.  Instruct individuals to then rank the problems/opportunities from the highest score, to the lowest score, and then provide to you (anonymously) their top ranking problem/opportunity. Very quickly, you will be able to see which problem/opportunity has been ranked the highest by the group!

By selecting the problem/opportunity that is the most important, frequent and frustrating to the customer, you can ensure that your people’s creative problem solving skills will be put to good use. Of course, there are lots of other elements to making sure your organisation is focusing its efforts in the right areas. If you’d like to find out more or just have a chat, I’d love to hear from you! You can find me here, [email protected] or here, @fasttrackjudy. For now, have a great week!