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How Wow Now: My favourite way to find breakthrough ideas

Read time: 3 minutes

In this week’s issue, I want to share my favourite way to find breakthrough ideas that skyrocket team and business results.

Unless you’re careful, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of working on ideas you feel comfortable with rather than those with a high likelihood of growing your business.

By following this short guide, I hope you can walk into any team and help them find and shortlist some awesome high-impact ideas.

Breakthrough ideas don’t appear by magic. They need to be encouraged to germinate, grow, blossom and fruit, and everyone needs to care for them.

The model I’m sharing with you today is called “How Wow Now”.

The benefits are:

  • It’s easy to understand and run.
  • It’s easy to find big ideas that are simple to implement.
  • You’ll be confident you’re working on the best ideas rather than popular ones.
  • You’ll get everyone’s agreement and support along the way.

Let’s dive in...

Step 1 - Brainstorm

Brainstorm a long list of ideas. The more the merrier.

You can never have too many ideas and it's important everyone contributes.

If you need some fun and innovative ways that beats just sitting around a meeting table talking take a look at these Creative Problem Solving processes.

Or for a simpler more traditional approach to Brainstorming try the first part of this process.

Step 2 - Sort

Draw a 2x2 matrix and label the axes with Common Ideas & Original Ideas along the bottom and Easy to Implement & Hard to Implement along the side.

Important note: Easy → Hard to implement is not just about whether we have the technology, budget or resources to get the idea done.

It’s also about whether we have the political will. Are there forces in play that might scupper the idea before it makes it into action?

Label the quadrants and explain the terms Now, Wow! and How?

  • Blue Now ideas: common ideas that are easy to implement. These are our “low-hanging fruit”.
  • Yellow How? ideas: original ideas that are hard to implement. These are potential breakthrough ideas in terms of impact but are too hard to implement right now given our current situation.
  • Red Wow! ideas: original ideas that are easy to implement. These are our breakthrough ideas that we should be doing ASAP as they might well have a huge impact on our KPIs.

Give each person 5 sticky dots of each colour (red, blue and yellow).

Ask them to approach the ideas board and stick their dots on the ideas.

Each person can only put 1 dot on an idea (i.e. no stacking), and they have to decide themselves (in silence and without discussion with others) what colour the dot should be.

Step 3 - Prioritize

First discard any ideas with no dots.

Count the total number of dots on each idea (gives you a priority) and note the dominant colour on each.

  • In the case of a tie between blue and red, the idea is blue (Now).
  • In the case of a tie between red and yellow, the idea is red (Wow).
  • In the case of a tie between blue and yellow, the idea is blue (Now).

You now have a prioritised list of low-hanging fruit ideas you should start working on to implement first (the Blue Now ideas).

Plus you also have a prioritised list of big, innovative breakthrough ideas that can potentially transform your results in a truly exciting way (the Red Wow! ideas).

Remember: Keep an eye on the Yellow How? ideas to see if any are likely to be more possible in the future. Especially those that were only just categorised as Yellow ideas during the dot voting stage.

By using this strategy, I never have to wonder whether I’m working on the best ideas in the right order.

Instead, it becomes a simple game of lots of ideas → best ideas → $£€.

Well, that’s it for today.

I hope you enjoyed it.

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About the Author

Nick Martin helps leaders & consultants improve team results with resources, advice & coaching through