Ideas in Limbo: How to Get Ideas to a State of Decision

It is easy to make a decision on ideas you are passionate about.  But what about ideas which seem interesting, but which you don’t know what to do with?  At PwC, we’ve discovered that there is this area of limbo where ideas live until they eventually find someone to own it, or someone to kill it.  At times, an idea with potentially enormous impact can suffer this fate.  Ideas in limbo are shuffled around between different people for many reasons, but typically it is due to passion, ownership, or alignment to strategy.  Ideas that lack passion suffer this fate because the idea is either a) not good enough for someone to say yes or b) not bad enough for someone to say no.  Ideas that potentially span the responsibility of many leaders in the organization present ownership difficulties.  And then of course, some ideas can be so far beyond current strategy that there is little present applicability to attract someone to want to take it forward.

So what can you do when the level of passion and support around the idea is not apparent and no one can reach a decision?  How can you help stop this vicious cycle of continually passing around ideas? Below are some opportunities to consider to finally reach a decision and obtain the ownership for ideas to move forward:

1.  Seek out existing work streams and communities with a need
Identifying a work stream or community that has a defined need is always the best option.  If an idea can garner support based on its relevance to the work stream’s strategy, the idea will get the attention and ownership it needs to move forward.  They are also in the best position to challenge ideas and help them evolve to create the most impact.  Many times, we will link the subject matter of the idea to potential networks or communities to generate interest.  Once interest is generated, obtaining ownership is not nearly as difficult.

2.  Create new communities and teams to assess ideas and reach consensus
Creating a new community of diverse personnel (across the organization) will provide a broad perspective and insight into where it could fit in the organization.  This is particularly true when the idea spans multiple business units across the organization.  Bringing all of these parties together is important when making decisions about the idea.  Also, generating the support from across business units will help accelerate an idea if multiple parties are interested in the idea’s success.  There is truth when they say it takes one person to have an idea, but it takes an army to implement the idea.  Setting up different people to be part of the “troop” will help in garnering support and responsibility.

3.  Connect the person who had the idea with potential owners
Connecting the person who came up with the idea with the group of potential owners can create a faster way to arrive at a decision.  Being able to have the person with the passion and the insight to elaborate on the potential impact of the idea is important for potential owners to consider when making a decision.  If the person with the idea can appropriately convince a leader of the need and impact of the idea, this can lead to a decision being reached more quickly.

Within our first couple of months of launching iPlace, it was apparent that we needed to develop ways to evolve and expose ideas to different people to make a decision and get these ideas out of limbo.  We average about 60% of our ideas are passed between two or more people before a decision is reached.  We used each of the different techniques above to facilitate discussion, drive action, and create ownership within our organization.  Reaching a unified decision and charting a course of action pushed ideas in limbo forward to action.

So how do you deal with ideas that are in limbo?

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1 Response to Ideas in Limbo: How to Get Ideas to a State of Decision

  1. Pingback: Top ten innovation and ideas management blog posts – weekly round-up |

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