Idea Evaluation Matrix: Step-by-Step Guide

By Michael Watkins

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Great ideas are the lifeblood of innovation. But gathering ideas is, of course, just the start of the process. It’s important that you focus your time and energy on the ideas you believe will have the most impact, so how you evaluate ideas is key. 

It is essential to have a clear idea assessment process in place so that you can select your best ideas as efficiently and effectively as possible. Ideally, this process would be both standardised and scalable so that it can be applied across your entire organization. 

This can be achieved by using an idea evaluation matrix (also known as a concept evaluation matrix or an innovation evaluation matrix). 

A great idea evaluation matrix incorporates as many key factors as possible. For instance, how much will the idea cost to implement and run? What impact will it have on your business and the bottom line? How long will it take to implement? Does it align with your strategic goals? These are all factors that will ensure your idea evaluation matrix is thorough and reliable.

The beauty of an idea evaluation matrix is that it enables you to screen and rank each idea based on the factors you deem to be most important. This gives you a clear, visual metric (and subsequent business case) for deciding which ideas to take forward. 

Here, we outline the five steps to building your idea evaluation matrix.

1. Select the ideas to put through your matrix

An idea matrix can work effectively with many ideas, but if you’ve just completed an innovation competition or challenge and have hundreds of ideas to evaluate, you’ll need to ’filter’ those ideas to select the ones that you believe are the most innovative. You can use your crowd of idea generators as the first filter, letting everyone vote, rate and comment on the ideas that have been submitted. 

At this stage of the screening process, you might find that some ideas are “quick wins” and they won’t need to go through the evaluation matrix. For these quick wins, simply get going! For the bigger ideas, though, an idea evaluation matrix is invaluable.

2. Choose your idea screening criteria

The second step in building the matrix is to decide which criteria to use for scoring your ideas. It is vital that you choose the right criteria to screen and rank your ideas, otherwise they won’t be aligned with your overall goals or strategy. While these criteria will vary for each organisation and depending on the type of ideas you’re evaluating, they’ll generally include the following:

Examples of idea screening criteria

  • Time

How much time will each idea take to plan, implement and produce results? Does the time investment reflect the idea’s value?

  • Cost

What will it cost to bring this idea to life, including multiple pilots (if necessary) and a full rollout? Sometimes big changes are worth big investments, but you’ll need to be sure that you’ll get a return on your spend.

  • Potential impact

Is this a major shift in the way that you work? Will it change the way your clients see you? Big, bold ideas can be scary, but often highlight the changes that need to happen.

  • Monetary impact

Is this idea going to directly impact your bottom line? Innovation should have a direct impact on your company finances, so always consider this dimension carefully.

  • How much of your organisation is affected

It’s important to pay attention to the needs of each team when evaluating your ideas. However, when you’re allocating resources, it often makes sense to prioritise the ideas that will affect the greatest number of people.

  • Business critical

How vital is it that this idea happens, and happens soon, for the survival of your business? Take a look at the wider landscape and think about how this idea sets you apart.

  • Ownership

Will someone be able to take ownership of this idea, and manage the process from start to finish? All innovation needs to be managed, so make sure your great idea is manageable.

  • Linked to strategic goals

Your company already has a strategic direction, but does this idea fit? The best idea in the world is no use to you if it takes you in a direction you’re not trying to go in.

3. Rate your criteria

Next, you’ll need to establish a rating scale – a “criteria coefficient” for each of the criteria you’ve chosen for your matrix. The scale will go from 1 (low importance) to 5 (high importance). Add these ratings to the matrix, below each criterion. For example, if cost is critical when rating each idea, give that criterion a ranking of 5. If time to implementation is less critical, you might rank that as a 2.

4. Score each idea

Once you’ve rated your criteria, you can move on to scoring each idea based on the criteria you’ve chosen. Score from 1 to 5 (1 being the least effective, 5 being the most) how well each idea meets each of your chosen criteria. For example, if Idea A ranks very well in terms of cost, award it a score of 5 for that criterion, and if its monetary impact is low, you may choose to give it a score of 1 or 2 there.

5. Calculate each idea’s weighted score

Finally, you need to calculate each idea’s weighted score for each of the criteria.

To calculate the weighted score for each idea, first you need to find the weighted score for each idea in each of your chosen criteria. To do that, simply multiply the ranking you’ve given to each criterion with the score you’ve awarded for each idea in that particular criterion. For example, if you’ve ranked your cost criterion as a 2 and Idea A has a score in the cost criterion of 3, the weighted score for Idea A in the cost criterion is 6 (2 x 3). You’ll need to calculate these weighted scores for each idea across each of your criteria.

6. Sum the weighted scores and compare

The final step is to sum the weighted scores across each criterion for every idea in your matrix, and to write these scores in the final column of the matrix. You can then compare these scores to evaluate which ideas are the most viable (those with the highest scores) and which are the least.

By scoring every idea based on the evaluation criteria you deem critical, an idea evaluation matrix can prove an invaluable decision-making tool for helping you to find the best, most-workable ideas for propelling your business forward.

Unleash your innovation potential today

Want to find out more? Download our guide to successful evaluation

Bring Your Best Ideas to Life with our Innovation Management Platform

At Wazoku, we believe that the best ideas already exist, leaders just have to find them. Our idea management platform gives businesses a clear and cohesive way to not only source and evaluate innovative new ideas, but turn them into a reality.

Our customers use the platform to implement an end-to-end idea management process. This gives every person a chance to be a driving force for change and nurture their greatest ideas to completion. Whether you’re looking to improve customer service, increase your share in the market or even shake up your entire industry, Wazoku can give you the tools you need to innovate and grow.

Our experts are passionate about helping businesses across many industries realise their innovation goals. So if you need help finding your next big idea, contact the Wazoku team today!

By Michael Watkins

Michael is Wazoku's Product and Brand Marketing lead. Away from the office, he's our resident film buff, so if you want some recommendations for a night in front of Netflix or a trip to your local cinema, get in touch with him!