IDEAS – Presentation by Professor English

[Originally published on the Australian Government Public Sector Innovation Network under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY AU licence]

Have you ever had the problem of having lots of ideas, but not being sure which ones to concentrate your efforts on?

Associate Professor Jack English from the Australian Innovation Research Centre (based in Hobart) recently presented to some members of the Public Sector Innovation Network about his Innovation Development Early Assessment System (IDEAS) which he has developed for precisely that situation.

Empowering Change: Fostering Innovation in the Australian Public Service adopted a five phase model for the public sector innovation process – idea generation, selection, implementation, sustaining, and diffusion. IDEAS is focussed on the second phase – selection. In my personal experience this selection phase is quite difficult in the public sector, far more so than coming up with ideas (the public sector is rarely short of ideas whether internally or externally generated).

As Professor English noted, it makes sense to support the weakest phase of the innovation process if you are going to improve your innovation capacity. For organisations where the weakest phase is selection, he suggests the system as a tool for helping individuals pick which of their ideas they want to pursue and put their efforts into.

The IDEAS approach provides a means of assessing the relative strengths and weaknesses of an idea against the factors that can matter most in the public sector. He has categorised these factors under the areas of Perceptions, Stakeholders, Risks, and Resources.

Professor English has centred this assessment of ideas on the underlying question of feasibility. He argues that it does not matter if an idea is flawed or if the context/organisation is not ready for it – if the idea is not feasible at that point in time then there is little point in the individual pursuing it (though of course some ideas may have a much stronger chance with a change in circumstances and others can be improved).

The tool is aimed at individuals rather than for an agency as a whole, though the more the tool and the associated language is known within an organisation, the more useful it would likely be.

It was an interesting presentation, and I recommend having a look at the IDEAS paper if you want to know more about this approach.

What are the experiences of others? Are you aware of any other processes to help ideas selection? How do you decide which of your ideas to pursue and which to discard or leave for another time?