Even if a solution has great potential, for being implemented it must first be feasible for the company
There are 3 main steps in testing the feasibility of an idea:
1. Visualise the outcome of the idea and work backwards to understand the process to implement it
To fully understand the solution or suggestion you are preparing to propose, it is important to visualise the end outcome of it and to understand what it would take to get there.
For defining the end outcome, answer briefly these questions:
- How will it look when it’s done? What features and functionalities will it have?
- How will the client/ receiver interact with it? How will they feel while interacting with it?
- How will the team of employees/product managers interact with it?
For defining the process to get there, using all the information you’ve gathered until this point, work through the execution process backwards from the end outcome. If it has to look and operate a certain way, what steps need to be taken to get there, what technology will be used, who will work on it etc.? Moderate detail and granularity in those steps are sufficient. At this point, you are visualising these in order to help you decide if this is a suitable idea to propose, not to plan for the execution itself.
2.Reach out to people and explain your ideas effectively
You would want to share your idea with relevant people who can give you valuable input on how to move forward. They might be experts, supervisors or leaders of some sort, who tend to have a packed schedule. The less time you require from someone, the higher the chance that you will receive it. Ensure that you know what type of input you want from them, your explanation is concise and your questions to them are clear.
To prepare, answer these 3 questions:
- Can the gist of your idea be explained in a maximum of three sentences?
- Can you present a visual, paper model, or a basic version that they can see or test?
- What is the most important question you want to ask them?
Proceed then to prepare your answers or even the paper or cardboard models to support your discussion.
For clarity in explanation, avoid:
- Ambiguous words (maybe, could, might, I believe etc.). -> Define the probability in percentage instead, if applicable. Ie: Maybe it will work – There is a 35% chance that it will work.
- Very long explanations, because the listener will get lost in the details.
- Complex explanations: Simplify technical and specialised information into vocabulary and phrasing that appeals to non-experts.
- Relying on emotions: Present factual information instead. ie: I feel this will work. -> Based on all the information I’ve gathered, there is a 65% chance for this to work.
- Filler words: Prepare and rehearse if needed, bring note cards with the key points that you can follow during the explanation, use a visual aid in the explanation and set a strict timing for yourself to avoid going too long on the topic.
Recommended structure for presenting an idea, suggestion, or solution:
Context (why you are meeting and what is the goal of the session) -> Problem or task you are addressing -> Root cause of the problem or trigger for the task -> Solution(s) you are proposing -> Impact you are aiming to achieve with the solution(s) -> Question for your audience that you want feedback from
Example of a structured presentation of ideas:
Context: The new procurement manager has reported that he noticed that the requests for purchasing paper have doubled for the past 3 years, which does not seem normal for a company that works half the time remotely. This leads to financial waste and going against the company sustainability principles.
Task: Reduce paper usage at least by 60% across the company.
Root cause: Managers do not find digital storage to be safe so they chose to print most documents.
Solutions proposed: 1. Investigate the safety level offered by the existing digital storage. 2. Train relevant staff on how to use digital storage safely. 3. Create digital signatures for all staff with approver access.
Impact aimed: 1. Reduce paper usage by 20% per quarter up to an overall 60% reduction during the year. 2. Capacity building and digitisation of the company. 3. Saving costs.
- Is the top management in line with digitisation or do they have violent objections towards it?
- Who are the best people to talk to about the digital storage used?
- What could be the barriers to re-training staff on documentation and storage of confidential information?
1. Effectively communicate complex information
2. How to explain complicated things in a simple way
3. Collect feedback from multiple sources on the doability of the idea
Cross-checking your idea with others has multiple benefits. It gives you sufficient opportunities to explain the idea before you present it to your supervisor. The people you are discussing with will give further input on its mechanics and how it can be improved. And most of all, the feedback you get can tell you how realistic and practical the idea is.
For a holistic view, cross-check your idea with various individuals: experts in the matter, people who would work on its execution, those who have knowledge of budgets and resources, the ones who would benefit from its implementation, and people from indirect departments.
Troubleshoot and shape your suggestion with feedback from peers and your manager for it to be practical
In the feasibility test phase of formulating an idea, you share your thoughts with peers and the manager with the intention of getting feedback that informs you whether the idea is practical or not. How you receive that information is also important.
In this situation, feedback is:
- Information you can use to improve your idea and your process to formulate and present an idea.
- Your peers’ experience and wisdom, which cannot be replaced by desk research.
- Information about how your team interacts with the idea and how they may or may not buy in and work on it in the future.
Feedback is not an attack on you as a person or on your idea. Nor is it an occasion where you must prove you are right or better than your peers. Feedback also doesn’t ask you to react to it on the spot.
In order to collect this feedback, ensure that when you present your idea:
- You follow the structure recommended for presenting a suggestion.
- You manage the time so that your presentation takes up a maximum of 30% of the time and your peers get 70% of the time to share their thoughts.
- You listen actively and ask questions to further understand the feedback, not to challenge or deflect it.
- Take notes or record the discussion to refer to it later.
- Ask for support to implement certain pieces of feedback that require someone else’s expertise.
Once you have all the feedback, you can decide if the solution is ready to be presented or if it needs adjustments before showcasing it to decision makers.