Selecting the right ideas: now, how, wow!

now how wow Tarlunt Consulting Group
July 11, 2018

Brainstorming is the one thing your colleagues love. Getting together, sticking post-its on brown papered walls, coming up with creative (or outrageous) ideas: it almost doesn’t feel like work, does it? But once you have gathered the 80+ post-it suggestions from the brainstorm session: how do you select the right ideas? The now-how-wow framework helps you to narrow the field in idea selection, in order to determine the right solutions to your problem. Uncovering the way to implement them.

Impact-effort matrix

The now-how-wow framework is a matrix where effort and impact of ideas are compared and clustered. On the one hand, the feasibility of suggested ideas is ranked. The effort is mostly defined as “difficulty of implementation”, “complexity of change” or “costs”. This effort is compared against its estimated impact. This may vary, depending on what you are trying to solve. In a cost savings project, impact may be defined as “monetary savings”; in an innovation project it may be “originality” or “added value”.

Categorizing ideas

Together with your brainstorming team members, the suggested ideas can consecutively be clustered and plotted into the quadrants. This is a collaborative effort.

Tarlunt post

To start-off, with the High-Impact/Low-Effort ideas:

  • WOW!-ideas: Innovative ideas, Possible breakthroughs, Exciting techniques, Can make a difference and are Implementable

Team ideation craves to deliver WOW!-ideas. In practice these top-ideas are rare and therefore this quadrant is sometimes referred to as “unicorn”, i.e. you can imagine that a unicorn exist, but few people will ever see it. However, finding a true unicorn idea, is of course a WOW!

Next clustered are High-Impact/High-Effort ideas:

  • HOW?-ideas: Future ideas, Dreams, Challenges, Visionary, but Not yet implementable

These ideas are not yet implementable, but hold great value for the future. These are referred to as “jewels”, meaning one should carefully treasure them as they are rare, but expensive. The ideas in this category are often more difficult to quantify, since their potential returns are projected in the (far) future.

Thirdly clustered are Some-Impact/Low-Effort ideas:

  • NOW!-ideas: Simply implementable, Existing examples, High level of acceptance, Low risk, Quick wins

In this quadrant conventional ideas with some impact are clustered. Here one finds the “low hanging fruit”. Low effort ideas with very low impact – “peanuts” – should be separated from this quadrant.

Leaves us with the forth quadrant: Low-Impact/High-Effort. This is the “black hole” for impossible ideas. Obviously, we do not search for ideas in this cluster, which is sometimes referred to as POW!

Shared vocabulary

The now-how-wow framework offers teams a new vocabulary to distinguish the nature of ideas. It enhances discussing the contribution that various ideas may have in the future direction of your project. It will catalyze developing solutions and innovation. It has proven to be a straightforward and easy to use framework for uncovering the best ideas.

Tailored implementation strategies

However, bear in mind that in the development phase, the distinctive idea quadrants require different treatment, balancing between idea exploration and exploitation. NOW!-ideas ask for rigid implementation management, in order to harvest the benefits in the shortest time frame. HOW!-ideas require a more R&D-mindset, investigating the technical readiness and implementation horizon. In practice, HOW!-ideas expectations on results are often overrated and difficult to implement over time. In fact, we believe the framework can be used as an “investment portfolio” to your innovation investments. We advocate an ambidextrous strategy, where your organization is not only efficient in managing today’s business, but is also able to adapt to tomorrow’s changing demand.

Want to know more on ideation, scenario selection and our value discovery workshops? Mail us at or visit

Ruud Olthoff

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