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How to get better ideas from your team
Having a team who come up with ways to improve things is a huge asset. But it can also lead to pursuing ideas that actually don't make a difference. Here's a simple framework to focus minds.
I love working with people who come up with creative ideas. It’s a necessary (but not sufficient!) condition to improving things.
But coming up with creative new ideas is actually not that hard. I get cold emailed 30 of them by various vendors every week, I’m sure your life is no different!
Even implementing ideas isn’t the hardest bit. The hardest bit is figuring out which idea will move the needle.
My rule of thumb is that only 1 out of 10 ideas has a big positive impact. And you probably only have time to implement 1 out of 10 ideas anyway.
So that’s the one we should focus on. The other ones should be ignored.
Which is hard, because these other ideas will still have some positive impact, just not enough. But smart people can always find reasons to argue for them. That’s the dangerous bit, as you might be tempted!
So it’s worth having an objective method to chuck out ideas which likely won’t have the result you’re looking for.
The method will then also help your team come up with better ideas and self-censor their lower impact ideas, so you don’t have to always be the one to tell them their idea isn’t going to fly.
Here’s how we do it at Lexoo:
First set the goal
State up front what we’re trying to improve. What’s our goal?
For example, if you’re working in an in-house legal team, is the goal to reduce turnaround time, reduce ‘time-to-close’, help the business self-serve more, be more strategic, or something else?
These are all good goals. But you should pick one at a time, based on what the biggest opportunity area is in your team.
Then any idea your team brings to you, can be ranked based on its expected contribution to that specific goal.
I like to use “ICE” scoring, which scores each idea on:
Impact - if this idea works, how big is the impact on our goal, minor (1), huge (5), somewhere in between (3)?
Confidence - how confident are we that the given idea will work, do we have any examples of other teams trying this thing and it working? If it’s untested score it 1, if it’s guaranteed to work, score it a 5.
Ease - how time consuming or expensive is this to implement? Ideas that are cheap and quick will get a high ease score (5), ideas that will take months and come with a huge cost will have a lower ease score (1-2).
Score each of these 1-5, then we multiply those three scores against each other to calculate the ICE score. You can then more objectively compare it against other ideas to achieve the goal. The score is also a good starting point to see if you can improve the idea, what can we tweak to increase the scores?
For example, if the goal is to respond to legal needs more quickly, it might look something like this:
A real life example (plus small sales pitch):
When we designed LexPlay (our contract playbook tool), we consciously tried to give it the highest possible ICE score. Not just for ourselves (we use the tool every day and initially just built it as an internal tool), but also for customers.
Our goal was to reduce the time spent on BAU contract review. Our data showed that the biggest time drains were:
the mark-ups themselves; and
checking junior lawyers’ work.
Impact: To have high impact the tool needed to standardise how we mark-up + comment on contracts, live in Word (where the lawyers work), and enable us to build and update playbooks quickly.
Confidence: But for us to have high confidence that our tool would solve the problem, we needed to make it super simple and fit existing workflows (otherwise lawyers, including our own, might not use it). We tried a bunch of tools on the market before we built our own, but they scored low on confidence, as I just didn’t trust we’d be able to properly embed it and have the team use it day-to-day.
Ease: We also needed it to be super easy to install and try. Without a huge upfront investment in ‘training’ it. Most enterprise software is expensive, multi-year, and hard to implement (forces you to change multiple workflows). To get the Ease score up, we needed to avoid all that.
It led to a tool that is not as flashy as we could’ve made it, but it really works, and it’s simple enough that we don’t have to charge the earth.
Free trial: You can trial it for free here for 30 days if you want to see it. No credit card required, and you can now just install it yourself, no need to speak with us.
ICE scoring helps your team focus on finding the best solution to a pre-defined problem. It’s the opposite of what typically happens, which is starting with a solution then ‘look for problems’ it might solve!
Thanks for being here,