At some point you may find yourself in a situation where you have several great ideas and you aren’t sure which one to pursue first.  This is a great problem to have but its critical to find the most promising one before investing time and money on formal research, validation, and development.  The best way that we’ve found to identify the top idea is through idea testing interviews.

Idea testing interviews are discussions with people in your target market where you spend a minute or two describing the ideas, with or without artifacts, but with enough detail so that the participants can provide meaningful feedback.

It can often be difficult to tell during an interview whether the participant actually likes the idea or not.  We’ve found that asking participants to grade or score ideas helps crystalize the initial enthusiasm about each idea and determine which idea or ideas are worth exploring more and which should be shelved.

Asking participants to grade the ideas (A-F) is our preferred approach because it is a familiar scale to all participants and it can be disarming.  For analysis purposes, grades can be coded on a scale of 1-5, 5 being an A.

Preface the grading with a statement about your impartiality so that they don’t feel bad about giving a bad score or grade, especially if they had a lot of negative comments about an idea when you were describing it.  A general statement that has worked well for us is: “Please score the idea from A-F on your level of enthusiasm about it. Please give me your honest opinion. If you love the idea, great. If you don’t, then by telling us that you’ll save us time and money by not pursuing it.”

Always be sure to ask why the participant selected the grade.  The ‘why’ can be revealing and tease out details that weren’t expressed during the idea overview discussions.  If a participant grades multiple ideas at the same level (such as all A’s), ask them to force rank the A’s. Some participants will feel bad giving an honest grade, so this is one way to uncover their true opinions. The corresponding scores for multiple A’s can be converted to fractions of the grade, with the ‘top A’ receiving a 5 and the subsequent A’s can receive a score between 4 and 5.

Track the grades/scores in a summary sheet so you can easily determine which ideas are testing better than others.  Combine the grades/scores and average them across all of your interviews to determine which has the highest initial enthusiasm.

Click here to download our idea testing analysis sheet.

Have at least ten discussions and continue them until you have a clear winner or you are seeing diminishing marginal returns.  Once you have a clear winner and are ready to move forward, start the model and market validation phases. Good luck!