A 2014 Forbes article on innovation metrics strongly implies that measuring activities is critical to success. Maybe. Maybe not so much. At least for the big stuff. Innovation activities simply for the sake of doing something without context and insight from the measure may be in fact very misleading. ROI and NPV are obvious measures, but we all do that anyway. The other measures discussed are in fact not necessarily appropriate at all. I see innovation as a lifestyle. If you’re not doing it 100% of the time, as a part of your body and soul, it’s hard to be truly innovative.
Accordingly, my preference centers upon context for measures and to see innovation as more of an approach, a general attitude and methodology than a series of specific steps, training and subsequent measures. Again, the measures discussed in this Forbes article just don’t make sense to me as many have no context and thus proof that they add insight. Innovation is not a program. It’s a lifestyle. By example, in my experience with significant innovations, after an organization becomes more innovative, expenditures on product development and the like actually decrease, the number of projects decrease and the return on invested capital, margins and customer profitability (b2b) or lifestyle (b2c) radically increase.
The noted measures by Forbes look instead at increases in activities and the population engaged which may be misleading. In fact, the implication that a certain % of time is being spent on innovation for example implies that the staff is not innovating the other times! Really? An innovative organization focused on all activities as being an opportunity to engage, observe, learn, experiment, analyze and ideate innovates does this 100% of the time. Telling people to devote 10% of their time to innovation is like planning exactly when you will get married, get promoted and hit the big time. It simply does not work that way.
Innovation is seeing, observing things in new ways with an accumulation of highly varied experiences that seemingly culminate in that “sudden” (really not so sudden) epiphany. Steve Johnson and others work here is remarkable. Look at Darwin – many see that his innovations took shape in his notes decades before his seminal work. He just was not ready in his mind to put it all together. Think about how many times our final realizations are culminations of a long period of mental thought, observation experimentation. It’s why we say research – not search.
Measuring ideas? How many ideas we generate? Lots are great? Really? Too many ideas are a bad thing in our view. How about instead the number of ideas killed and the why? In fact, that may be a measure of ineffective ideation, as a group with a laser focus upon global socio-demographic, geo-political, industrial and environmental trends within the context of what they are trying to do for their customers would imply that the number of ideas should decrease per unit time but be ever increasing in their value to the latter customers.
The number of engineers, scientists and technicians employed does not at all directly correlate to being innovative or effective either. How many tiny upstarts with 1 to 100 employees total have knocked off a behemoth? It’s their revenue generated per staffer, the new product revenue generated per staffer and group that matters. In other words, context.
Accordingly, maybe the right metrics are really centered upon new product introduction rates, success rates, improved customer and their customer profitability and lifestyle satisfaction measured against the size of investment and organization and the accomplishments per unit time. In other words, the standard stuff along with a measure of improved performance and it’s trajectory, in the proper relevant contexts. Innovation is not a program. It’s a life long enterprise. It’s a lifestyle.