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Home » Featured, Run Your Business

How to Kill Ideas

Clockwork of destruction

It’s often said that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Whilst that maybe true in brainstorming sessions, having too many ideas can be bad for business.

Knowing when to say no can help you ship on time and can help you develop a simple user friendly product or service. But start adding too many good ideas into the mix and before you know it, your offering goes from helping lots of people to frustrating them.

You might have seen this in your own business products or services. A good example is websites; the first iteration of the website is usually very focussed and has just what’s necessary, the second version has a few more bells and whistles and the third version is packed with every great idea the site owner has ever had. What’s more the site owner listened to customer feedback and adopted each and every idea that was suggested. But each idea helped take the website away from it’s original purpose.

Looking at the first, highly focused website and the last version it would be difficult to recognise that the sites were  even related.

Sometimes you have to say no and kill good ideas for the sake of your business and your customer.

In this post we’re going to look at how to evaluate ideas and deciding which ideas to kill.

Quantity v Quality

The problem with too many ideas is that you’re left with a choice over which one to pursue. Choose the right idea and your business will grow and flourish chose the wrong idea and you business could be forever playing catch up with the competition or wither and die.

Many entrepreneurs make decisions about which ideas to follow based on “gut feel” in some cases that may be a good decision, but it might not always be the best decision.  When you’ve got a team of people working with you, coming up with ideas you don’t want to run the risk of them feeling that they are being “railroaded” into a pursuing one particular idea. If you want to avoid that, then you need to take a more structured approach in your idea selection.

So, how do you evaluate between the good and the bad ideas? By setting yourself some selection criteria.

Selection Criteria

Before you start brainstorming ideas you should start off with setting the basis (or the criteria) of the idea selection. For example, the criteria might be:

1) Improving the customer experience

2) Allowing the business to enter new markets

3) Internal capability to pursue the idea

At the end of a brainstorming session each idea is then assessed against the selection criteria.  An idea which satisfies one or all of the crieria then it is likely to be a very good idea and well worthy of further discussion or consideration.  If you’re left with a number of ideas which have promise then the idea which satisfies the most criteria areas should be the one to pursue.

Another way of analysing ideas is by using the FAN method developed by Synetics. This is a general set of criteria which are based on whether you are a FAN of the idea:

  • Is it Feasible?
  • Is it Attractive?
  • Is it Novel?

UK based retailer Tesco uses a variation of this method based on:

  • Is it better (for the customer)
  • Is it cheaper (for Tesco)
  • Is it simpler (for staff)

Whichever method you choose will help you arrive at better selection of ideas and risk throwing out the good ideas with the bad.

Group Evaluation

If you’ve been running a brainstorming event involving a team and you’ve been through the selection criteria and you’re still left with a choice of promising ideas which you can’t pursue at the same time then you have a number of options open to you.

1. Secret Ballot – get each team member to vote for their favourite idea or the idea that they feel has the most promise, the idea with the highest number of votes wins.

2. Ranking – get each team member to rank the ideas in order of preference on a 1-5 scale (1 being best idea,  2 being next best etc)

3. Individual preference – ask each team member to state their preferred idea and why they prefer that particular idea. The only problem with using this approach though is where there is a mix in the status of individuals as sometimes more junior members of the team won’t always speak up or will go along with the idea promoted by the more senior members.

Finally, of course you can use a combination of these methods to come up with the best idea.

And Finally

Most entrepreneurs don’t fail because they don’t have enough ideas, they fail because they try to pursue too many ideas, or start a “better” idea before they’ve finished implementing the last great idea,  constantly  they “flit” from one thing to another, this is not good for growing a business!

Saying no is as important as saying yes. All too often good ideas come along but take time and money to implement, but lead to no increased return for the business, just increase cost of support and often frustrating customers in the process.




  • William Tha Great said:

    Matthew: This is my first time to your blog, and this was a nice article to read. Look forward to seeing my back around your community soon! It is true that everyday brings new idea’s but many of them are not good ones. Talking things over before taking that first step is always the best thing to do any any business. I’m trying to focus on making the best decisions for my business one day at a time.

    Keep up the good work!

    God bless,
    William Veasley

  • Matthew Needham said:

    William, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you found the post useful. I wish you every success. Thanks for the comment.


  • Sam said:

    Hi Matthew,

    Good post, I enjoyed the read. You’re right in that a lot of people fail because they buckshot their ideas and never really realize one thing at a time. It can cause confusion not only with their customers, but the owner as well. The key is to focus.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Sam, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I too have loads of ideas, but I’ve learned over time you can only do so many things well. So I make sure I note them all down and only persue the items on the list when I’ve finished the previous ones. One thing that I didn’t cover in this post, which I may do in a future post is killing off in flight ideas. Sometimes, better ideas do come along and you have to scrap what you’ve been working on for a higher payoff / deliverable project.

    Thanks again for the comment, really appreciate your input.


  • Owen said:

    Hi Matthew,

    This post neatly summed up some feelings I’ve been having at the moment. I think I am definitly guilty of persuing too many things at once! I’ll be trying to apply your framework.


  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Owen, thanks for the comment here. To be honest, most entrepreneurs do have too many things on the go at the same time, which is part of the make up of being an entrepreneur. Seeing an opportunity and going for it. The real trick is though to absolutely focus on one thing at a time, and that takes discipline!

    Good luck with using the framework, I really hope it helps you out.

  • Timo Kiander said:


    Great post!

    Thanks for teaching about evaluating ideas.

    I can see this as a huge effort/energy/time saver because you can kill the bad ideas without taking them any further.


  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks so much for the feedback Timo, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You’re right, it should be a huge time saver, but will also ensure that only the projects with the most potential get worked on.

    Thanks again, Matthew

  • Alex Aguilar said:

    While group evaluations and employee brain-storming sessions have their use, it is important to realize that business is not a democracy and the person writing the cheques will have the final say. The key decision makers should act as a filter for all incoming ideas and maintain a narrow focus for their online business.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Alex, you are so right. I’ve said before that whilst we may be lucky enough to live in a democracy, we sure don’t work in one. The only caveat to that is that the person in charge needs to be open minded and not blindly persue their own agendas. I’ve seen too many businesses go into decline because the owner was only interested in doing it “their way”.

    Thanks so much for adding this insight.