What do you want to innovate around? Do you want to focus around a technology area such as mobile applications or do you want to solve a social problem? Or do you want to solve a specific customer problem? Answering this question is crucial. If you are completely blank, then a framework like pain, wave, waste helps you to generate options. Let’s say you have generated a number of options, now what? Which one will you pick for further investigation? Here is a simple framework I use called PIC: Passion, Impact and Chance of progress.
Passion: The most important parameter is passion – i.e. how excited you are about working on a particular challenge area. How would you know? Well, one simple parameter is to check if working on the topic creates or sucks energy. If it sucks energy, then it is unlikely to be your passion area. If you find yourself thinking about it, reading/browsing about it more often etc. then it is a candidate for your passion. Another test is time-test. Don’t do anything about it for a while say a week or a month and then revisit it. Now, check if the excitement is still there. Sometimes a topic may create temporary excitement and then the excitement may die down over time.
Impact: This is the trickiest of the three parameters. The idea is check how big of an impact a solution in this area can create. For example, mobile applications can create a huge impact due to the wide reach. In a country like India, areas like healthcare, energy, education pose a lot of challenges. Hence, a successful solution may create far reaching impact. The reason this is a tricky parameter because it is difficult to visualize the largest possible canvas related to your challenge area. Your vision may be narrow. And it is OK. James Watt thought that his improved steam engine may be helpful in the nearby mines for at least half a decade. It is only after a champion and investor like Bolton came along that the scope got expanded to “everything that moves.” In the initial days, Facebook scope was limited to hardvard.edu email address.
Chance of progress: This is the second most important parameter (after passion). Your chance of progress improves significantly if (a) you get a partner to work with you (b) you get a champion for your challenge – like an investor, a customer or an influential person and (c) you can prototype your ideas fast and show them to people. You need to be lucky to get a good collaborator. However, your prototyping skills can be honed by you over time. Most successful innovators are good experimenters. In fact, showcasing your idea through prototypes increases the chances of getting a collaborator and a champion.
If you like spreadsheet approach, you may want to attach totally 4 points to Passion, 3 points to Impact and 3 points to chance of progress and evaluate each option.