Finding the stars in your portfolio of ideas is a little like finding an NBA player -- some are fast-tracked for stardom and shine (or don't), and it's the 'scouts' (product managers, marketers, R&D folks) job to sniff out the good and great ones. Some ideas are like Jeremy Lin was -- they have the potential, but fall through the cracks, maybe not even making it to the 'bench'. What if you could find those diamonds in the rough, just one or two, that reside in your organization? What value would that bring to your organization? To your customers?
So how do you do that? One way is to revisit your old ideas with new eyes, but lets stick with our athletic analogy for the moment. As in sports, the larger business world has a variety of metrics (definitive market potential, ROI after x years, etc.) that are used to pick the strong ideas. With breakthrough ideas -- ones that bring something truly new to the game -- these types of metrics are often what we call "imaginary numbers", because breakthrough innovation by definition means there is nothing to compare it to; it has no frame of reference. Then what do you rely on? To me there are two major tools: a process that nurtures rather than kills new ideas and something that we call The Educated Gut.
Criteria vs. Metrics
We once worked with a client who had historically required the Net Present Value of an idea immediately following ideation. Truly new ideas wither and die rather quickly in this environment. Instead, rate beginning ideas on a few (4-5) criteria, and use that in concert with an evaluation model that preserves what's good about an idea, while clearly identifying flaws (and they've all got them) in a way that encourages problem solving. We call this an Open-Minded Evaluation. Some of the criteria we find are the most powerful are: