Great leaders are great decision-makers.
Everyone from the CEO to the Marketing intern has ideas for improving the workplace. But — whether you lead HR, IT, or another department responsible for the employee experience — it falls on you to decide if an idea is feasible, let alone if it should be prioritized. So how can you possibly take input from potentially thousands of people across your organization and figure out what to do next?
I’ve been thinking about this overwhelming challenge ever since I watched Alex Henson, our VP of Marketing, interview Nelm Khangura, VP of Store and Colleague Solutions at Loblaw, in an episode of our podcast, Legends of Employee Experience. To survive in today’s fast-paced, complex business world, leaders must continuously refine how they make decisions to ensure they stay on the right path. That’s why the decision-making framework she uses — the Idea Funnel — caught my attention.
Working cross-functionally at one of the biggest companies in Canada means Nelm’s had to sift through loads of different tools to find the most meaningful initiatives to transform the employee experience. When it comes down to choosing the right ones to pursue, she depends on the Idea Funnel.
What is the Idea Funnel?
Simply put, the Idea Funnel is a method for taking a mountain of ideas and turning them into a handful of impactful initiatives. It’s a framework for making sure you’re only investing your time and resources in the best ideas — ones that will make an impact.
Remember the last time you conducted a brainstorming session or an employee survey. By the end of it, you were probably drowning in competing thoughts and opinions, unsure of where to go next. Some ideas may have sounded simple, like improving the HQ’s WiFi connection. While others might have seemed more outrageous, like implementing a 4-day workweek.
To redefine what it means to have a great workplace, you need to sit down and sort through tens, hundreds, or even thousands of comments to decide which ones are realistic. Then, you need to prioritize those comments based on feasibility. But how? Enter the Idea Funnel. With this framework, you can sift through a plethora of ideas so that you’re left with only the very best by the time you're finished.
The five steps of developing your Idea Funnel
As an employee experience leader, here are five steps you can take to strategically prioritize the right programs and make a career-defining impact:
1. Gather ideas from across all relevant departments, teams, and individuals.
Good ideas can come from everywhere. Don’t discount those that come from unpredictable places. And remember, what you think is a pain point might be entirely different for those who experience it daily. To understand why the status quo isn’t working, you need to ask around before you make any changes.
2. Determine how to measure the business impact of your ideas.
Once you understand the problem, you can establish consistent criteria to evaluate every idea that enters your funnel. You must know what success is to decide what kind of solution you need.
3. Screen your ideas.
Using the pre-defined criteria, walk ideas through the funnel. Some that sounded initially promising might not survive, while seemingly ridiculous ideas might pass muster. By the time you reach the bottom of the funnel, you’ll have a handful of options that match your original goals.
4. Conduct a proof of concept on all viable ideas.
For all the remaining ideas, give them a final sanity check. Outline how they would work in practice and determine a plan for allocating resources moving forward. This stage is all about preparing the idea for the real world. If something is simply not practical, you’ll quickly find out before committing additional resources.
5. Start a pilot program for the ideas that survived the POC stage.
Only the best ideas make it to this stage. Now is the time to create a minimum viable product and measure progress — or lack thereof — at regular intervals. If everything goes well, you can fully launch the idea to a larger audience. Maybe it turns out that investing in nap pods or speeding up IT support is where you should invest your time and energy. You won’t be guessing — you’ll know you made the right choice.
Make the right decisions with the Idea Funnel
At first glance, deciding what to do next doesn’t look hard. Get your hands on a lot of ideas. Throw away the wrong ones. Choose the right ones. Celebrate your success.
But that’s not the case, is it? Every decision is the biggest decision in your career. Every choice you make ultimately determines whether a new initiative succeeds or fails. That’s not table stakes. You need a plan.
This framework helps leaders like Nelm structure the chaos of innovation and carefully select only the best, most effective ideas. Especially now, it’s crucial to be sure you’re investing in solutions that make the most impact. With the Idea Funnel, you’ll know you are.
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