Ideation hangovers: how to identify them within your organisation

January 20, 2022

Large companies allocate substantial budgets and time towards ideation, surfacing the best ideas to transform their business, increase revenue and distinguish themselves from their competitors. This is especially true in a post Covid world, as organisations adjust to new working practices and accelerate their pursuit of digital transformation.

The ideation phase typically generates a lot of excitement and hope; it feels like change can be achieved quickly and the list of value-adding opportunities is endless. However, ideation is just the beginning of the innovation journey. Understanding which ideas to prioritise and progressing them through a delivery pipeline is often where organisations fall down and activity stalls. If not resolved, the excitement and dynamism built during idea generation diminishes, leadership and staff can become demotivated and risk aversion increases. In other words, the organisation slides into an ideation hangover.

Without clear assessment criteria (both from a commercial perspective and a technical one), it is very difficult to identify which ideas to pursue first. It is common for leadership teams to find themselves stuck debating the questions below at the expense of testing and prototyping ideas quickly:

  • Should we group some of the ideas to be delivered together? Do they share similar technical aspects?
  • Are there out of the box solutions on the market that could solve some of our problems?
  • Are these ideas technically possible to execute?
  • Should some of the ideas be built by our internal teams or should we be collaborating with a third party to build them?

While these questions are of course key to address, they should inform decision making at pace, allowing teams to reach a consensus on which ideas to invest in, how much investment to back them with and equally important, which ideas to kill. Failure to kill ideas that don’t meet your assessment criteria can turn them into “zombie ideas”, ideas that have been discussed for so long that everyone is a little bored of them, and yet precious resources, time and energy are still being wasted on them, instead of being directed towards validating the remaining ideas in the innovation pipeline.

How to tell if your team, department or organisation is struggling with an ideation hangover? There are a few key symptoms to look out for:

  • Do you have a long list of ideas?
  • Is there no clear path forward for how to progress these ideas?
  • Is progress moving more slowly than you would like?

If the answer to two or more of the above is yes, it’s likely you are but don’t worry, there is a cure (and it’s not a “hair of the dog”).

The key to addressing and preventing an ideation hangover is to embed a structured approach to working through your idea portfolio, to commercially and technically validate ideas, prototype options and progress the solutions with the highest potential to full build and release. This all starts with sense-making – the investigation of ideas to remove ambiguity, document associated pain points and opportunities, and understand the short and long term vision for the solution, which will allow you to more accurately assess the extent to which these ideas align with your innovation objectives, and shortlist those which should be progressed.

If you’d like to learn more about Curvestone’s bespoke sense-making approach to innovation ideas and how this has helped global enterprises to cure their hangovers & accelerate success we’d love to chat.


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