Innovation Gut Check Or Reality Based?

Quirky was a crowdsourcing company that has been held up in the past as THE invention crowdsourcing model.The front page of its website is bold: "Our mission is to make invention accessible.We believe everyone can be an inventor, and invention can happen anywhere."

Quirky filed for bankruptcy recently.

Rather than look at potential mismanagement or loss of strategy, I question whether Quirky failed because it never reached its stated mission.

A glance at QuirkyÕs website of submitted ideas is a wish list of benefits from customers:

  • "Lint Roller Travel Case.  This case helps you avoid getting the lint roller sheets stick to your clothes or other items."
  • "Bathtub Plunger.A bath adaption to my Sink Plunger."
  • "Cure for all.Genetically engineered white blood cells to cure all ailments." 
Innovation Gut Check

We can scoff at these ideas as being idealistic or just solving non-problems, but is there a faster and better way to determine the viability of ideas?  What about doing some quick math?

Performing some quick, "back of the envelope" sorts of numbers can often provide the direction needed on whether to pursue or kill a project.  And these quick numbers will be wrong, but will at least provide orders of magnitude of sales for an idea. 

They also move the idea away from "Gosh darn it, I think this idea is amazing, so everyone else surely will too," to "is there a real commercial market for this idea?"  And if it is the latter, better to put aside the idea and move on to another idea for possible success.

As a leader, how are you determining the viability of new ideas?  Are you just having a gut reaction, or are you using numbers?