6 Pieces of Advice I Would Give to The Majority of Ideas Written

I like to do some fun data analysis when writing blog posts like my last post about what percent of projects die due to each type of risk. This week is no different as I have once again dive into the deep end of Innovation Engineering’s database to see what I can learn. My goal was to figure out where we are going wrong with writing our ideas. We teach people how to communicate their innovations, but I know not all that information gets applied to real life projects. Now I couldn’t possible read over 30,000 ideas and track the advice I’d give each one, but I can program Idea Coach to do it for me. 

Innovation Engineering Yellow Card

Before I break down the top 5 let me start with the advice that you should finish writing your ideas before trying to improve them. That means giving your idea a name, a headline, stating the customer, what their problem is, promise to solve that problem and then say how you’re going to deliver on that promise and prove you can do it. Then bonus points for having a price and saying why that is a good value. 

  1. 83% of ideas fail to talk to the customer when communicating the problem. 
  2. 71% of ideas are written above a high school reading level.
  3. 64% of ideas have long news headlines.
  4. 63% of ideas don’t communicate that their problem that they solve is a problem.
  5. 60% of ideas fail to talk to their customer in the proof.
  6. 58% of ideas fail to talk to their customer in the promise.

Half of the advice is about talking to the customer. This is very important and actually has an easy fix. As you’re writing your problem, promise and proof, use the word “You”. This forces you to connect the idea to the customer whom you’re addressing. In fact ideas that contain the word you at least once are 16% more likely to succeed in the marketplace than ideas that do not. 

Next up is writing grade level. Our advice is to write as if you’re talking to a 5th grader and I have Idea Coach flag ideas written above 12th grade level. While we know you’re customer is likely not a 5th grader, writing simplicity makes it easier for everyone to understand the idea. One way to do this is to write short sentences. The next is to use smaller words.  For example, this blog post is written at a 9th grade level.  

By biggest concern with these issues is not how often they occur, but rather how they occur more often with ideas in development and delivery than define and discover stages. That means we actually get worse with this as ideas move forward. All the other advice idea coach gives is less likely to occur as we move forward. 

Long news headlines may be an indicator that the ideas needs to focus. Focus on the most meaningfully unique part of the idea to highlight. Remember that the headline is only supposed to be a sentence long, so don’t try and write the whole idea here. 

Lastly communicate the problem is a problem. This is about being blunt. It is okay if the customer doesn’t have the problem or think it is a big problem. It is NOT okay if the customer doesn’t understand it, because you’re implying or talking around it. Problems tend to either be big or frequent. Stating want kind of problem it is helps the customer focus on the pain point rather than dismissing it.

The percentages were calculated using only complete ideas written in Innovation Engineering Labs’ project section. Idea Coach gave out a maximum of 28 pieces of advice and 6 of which occurred in over half the ideas. Idea Coach on average gave 8.32 pieces of advice and did not give any advice to only 1 out of every 1,000 ideas. A humbling reminder that we all have room for improvementwhen it comes to communicating innovations.