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Measuring and Managing for Innovation

Bill Jarrard's picture

Measuring Innovation The Mindwerx 2015 Innovation Survey identified a number of concerns and questions in relation to making Innovation happen, with a BIG one being ‘how to measure Innovation’.  We’re working on an in-depth paper on this as part of our book coming out later in the year, but we wanted to make some comments on this now. 

Measuring Innovation is important to leaders who want to know if their investment in Innovation activities is paying off.  If they can, they will put more investment of people, time, and money into those things that work best.  It’s not an unreasonable question, but it seems to be one that in over 20 years of talking about Innovation, most organisations still don’t have a good answer to.

And that is because, as we’ve been saying for many years now, Innovation is Simple, But not Easy!

Let’s start by first trying to define Innovation.  At almost every presentation we give we ask people two questions – first ‘Is Innovation important?’.  The answer is always Yes.  The second question then is ‘So if Innovation is important, what is it?’  To this we get lots of different answers from ‘new and exciting’, ‘some that increases value and profit’, ‘doing something new and different’, ‘thinking outside the square’, and many more. 

Ask yourself now, how would you define Innovation?

Whatever the answer, you now know what to measure if you want to measure ‘Innovation’.  So if you define Innovation as ‘new and exciting products or services that increase value for the organisation and the customers your serve’, then all you have to do is look back over the last year or two and count up how many of those you delivered.  You’ve measured your success with innovation.   

Simple!

Alternatively you might also ask what ‘innovation projects’ you have on the go in the coming year, ones specifically set up to generate innovative outcomes.  Again simple!

The challenge with measuring Innovation is that it is an outcome, and only when it appears is it recognisable.  We can’t really know for sure what the ‘next innovation’ is going to be. 

That makes it a ‘lag indicator’ of success. What leaders really need to measure is what is being done to make Innovation happen, AND later what real and lasting impact an Innovation actually has on the organisation, the customer, and even the world.  That is not easy!

To do this requires a profound understanding of what it takes to make innovation happen, and that is very much the same as what it takes to ensure Continuous Improvement, Quality Performance, and Business Excellence happens.  It takes leadership insight.

That is where we need to focus.  Leaders need to learn what it takes to make innovation happen, and then give managers and staff the skills to undertake the creative activity, the intrapreneurial effort, and the teamwork do the things that ultimately deliver innovative solutions.

So if you believe that Innovation is important, invest the time and effort required to learn what it’s all about, and that will show you what you need to measure – and every organisation will have different needs, and Innovation needs to first be defined in the context for your organisation.

To discuss how to Innovate Better contact Bill at bill[at]mindwerx[dot]com.