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Context Can Be Everything: Will This Idea Work Here?

Let’s say that you (or someone you know or heard about) implemented a new program in an organization and it worked well. Or you found a helpful-sounding idea in a research article. So now you are considering trying that new idea in your current situation.

With the drought, who needs library doors? Would this work everywhere? Not hardly

However, you’re remembering that someone said:

Just because an intervention worked in one context, that does not mean it will necessarily work in a different situation.

Here’s a process that you can use to consider whether a new idea will work for a specific issue (challenge, problem), organization, and audience.

  1. Remember that powerful ideas that work in one context or for a particular audience may not work well in another context or for another audience.
  2. Write down the active ingredients of the idea you are considering using. What is it about this idea that made it work in the real-world or research example where you found it?
  3. Describe how your context is similar or different from that described in the research (for example, local vs. global, manufacturing environment vs. accounting departments, university vs. industry).
  4. Note why this idea might work in your context. Or, note what you might have to modify to make it work if your context is significantly different.
  5. Describe how your audience is similar or different from that described in the research (for example, geography, education, expertise, age, attitudes, misconceptions, and motivation).
  6. Note what adjustments you should consider for differences in your audience from that described in the research.
  7. Review the active ingredients of the solution, the context variables, and any audience differences. Make your case for using this powerful idea in your situation:
    1. The active ingredients of the research or organization solution that apply to our situation are…
    2. It is reasonable to predict that the context will work in our favor because…
    3. Our audience should find this solution helpful because…
    4. The risks of trying this new idea are…
    5. We should or should not try this new idea for this solution, in this context, with these people because…

This post was excerpted and updated from an ISPI presentation handout for a presentation called: Powerful Ideas Nobody Uses, coauthored by Jeanne Farrington & Richard E. Clark.


Organization | International Society for Performance Improvement

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