According to the old maxim, what gets measured gets done.

Yet according to a BCG study of a few years ago (i suspect nothing much has changed):

‘Only 41 percent of respondents said that their company is measuring (innovation) effectively.

Customer satisfaction and overall revenue growth are the two main gauges that companies use to determine the success of their innovation efforts.’

I wonder why this is the case and what can leader do about this?

Part of the reason is that many leaders have not tightly defined what innovation means in their business.

For example, at 3M for example, innovation means new products.

Hence their measure is 40% of sales must come from new products that are less than 3 years old.

This is a wonderfully simple measure which follows from a clear understanding of what innovation is and is not.

But innovation could also mean so much more.

For example if we are talking about internal company innovation e.g. new ways to serve customers or conduct team meetings or communicate to staff then other measures are needed.

These might include:

– the number of ideas submitted

– potential impact of these ideas e.g. time saving, efficiency, productivity improvement etc

– time to test an idea (i.e. time to market)

– employee engagement survey (an indirect measure)

– the originality of the ideas ( a subjective measure but worth considering).

Hence leaders could easily have a situation where they have a range of internal and external innovation measures.

In fact, the ideal situation might be to have a range of key measures in place.

Another complementary option:

With our new Blitz tool anyone that calls or participates earns Blitz points.

In this way a leader can measure and recognise creativity and innovation activity and engagement.

With Blitz we can measure:

– The number of people involved in Blitzing

– Who is Blitzing

– The number of Blitzes

– What is being Blitzed, and when

– Time taken in Blitzing

– The evaluation scores

This is important because innovation involves trial and error and failure.

If you only measure innovation in terms of the final product or outcome you create a win:lose mindset which can actually discourage risk-taking and reduces collaboration e.g. at a media company where a colleague works they measure innovation as — how many stories have you broken this quarter?

In my experience, this emphasis on measuring innovation outcomes only unfortunately leads to a situation where people may not share ideas, fight for individual attention, rarely contribute to other’s ideas (because they do not receive credit) and sometimes artificial results are calculated and submitted.

The important point with measuring innovation is that everyone understands what innovation is, what is being measured and why.

And that it actually drives more of the desired innovative behaviour.


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