How to Score Innovation Opportunities

How to Score Innovation Opportunities

Suppose you are running a pitch competition and need to create a scoring rubric? Or, maybe you are the head of a technology transfer office or innovation center and need to screen lots of ideas? Or maybe you teach innovation and entrepreneurship and need to clearly explain to your students how their submissions will be graded?

How do you score innovation ideas?

At many companies, the idea evaluation process revolves around detailed Excel spreadsheets, comprehensive PowerPoint documents, and an orchestrated sequence of pre-meetings leading up to a decision meeting. This kind of disciplined approach works very well when companies have knowledge that lets them be precise in their analysis, and executives have the relevant domain experience to make informed decisions.

Applying this same discipline to nascent opportunities in new spaces can be disastrous. People spend days discussing Excel spreadsheets that are nothing more than mathematical relationships between made-up numbers. Managers working on ideas discover that detailed PowerPoint documents are their biggest enemy, because the details act as bait for nit-picking devil’s advocates. Endless pre-meetings crowd out action-based learning.

Here's how one investment team screens and scores.

There are many ways to screen, score and scale your innovation management system, but, here are some considerations when you do:

  1. Should judges do it or should you task the innovator with self scoring?
  2. How many ideas do you anticipate and how will you scale the process?
  3. How will you communicate the structure, process and criteria to those who enter the process? How will you engage innovators?
  4. How will you create fairness and eliminate bias in the selection process?
  5. How much money do you have to spend on screening, scoring and scaling?
  6. How will you determine the selection criteria that are consistent with your strategic objectives?
  7. What will you do with those who have submitted ideas that have been rejected?
  8. How many stages of evaluation will you have? Pass-fail or stage gate?
  9. What is the most appropriate process for your industry or point of view? Should a new medical practice idea be judged the same way you would judge a digital health idea at a pitch competition or, a technology if you worked at a technology commercialization firm?
  10. Should you automate the process? Maybe you should use AI to pick the winners.

Most managers, investors and many leaders fail at picking winners, regardless of how they go about picking the jockey and not the horse. About three-quarters of venture-backed firms in the U.S. don’t return investors’ capital, according to recent research by Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. Angel supported companies don't do much better. Half of these companies go out of business… which can be considered the startup failure rate of angel-funded companies. Of the remaining 50%, two will eventually return just the capital that was originally invested, leaving only three as profitable exits.

The thumbs up or thumbs down approach, with death to the vanquished, creates innovation cultural chaos. "Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant" If might have worked for Caesar, but, when it comes to leading innovators, those who are about to die won't salute you. They'll leave and compete with you.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.

Share this article

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

terms and condition.
  • Shane Holder

    Nokia will be around forever since the phones can’t be destroyed

  • Jamie Crooks

    You gotta meet the founders and the team before making any investment decision.

  • Megan Franklin

    I know so many high profile innovation failures in the health care sector

  • Ian Paton

    Good points !!

  • Alex Mulcrow

    Sound innovation advices

Share this article

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

Cookies user prefences
We use cookies to ensure you to get the best experience on our website. If you decline the use of cookies, this website may not function as expected.
Accept all
Decline all
Read more
Tools used to analyze the data to measure the effectiveness of a website and to understand how it works.
Google Analytics