When looking to evaluate innovation many seek to find numbers related to product adoption, revenue generated, people reached, when what they ought to consider first is process outcomes.
Sustainable innovation — a process, practice, and culture of design-driven creation — is the most valuable outcome for any organization. Innovation is not about creating a single item — product, service, policy — it’s about doing it regularly, consistently, over time.
Regular innovation only comes from persistence or what Seth Godin calls The Practice.
Measuring the practice — the amount of activity, persistence, and consistency of effort — is what any organization should be evaluated against. It fits with what we know about design thinking, performance and innovation: the more ideas you generate, the more prototypes you create, and the more attempts you make the more likely you are to have better ideas, more successful products, and create transformation.
Coming up with a single successful innovation is mostly good if you’re seeking to be bought up by a competitor and, while that can be lucrative, it’s not a sustainable strategy and is contingent on having one very good idea. Having many good ideas and having them implemented into practice is what creates sustainable, resilient organizations. It is what allows organizations to adapt in times of crisis and create new opportunities in times of contraction within your market.
This is what a culture of innovation is all about.
Metrics of Effort
There are many metrics and methods that can help capture the effort of your team in developing that culture of innovation. These can be used to complement questions we might ask about design thinking. Here are a few:
- Number of attempts
- Number of ideas generated / ideation sessions engaged in
- Number of concepts proposed and prototypes developed
- Background research gathered (e.g., artifacts)**
- Consistently of application (i.e., ongoing use of a process and fidelity)
- Number of solicitations for feedback from internal and external sources
- Integrations within existing processes and tools
- Materials used
- Evaluation designs created for products or services
- Evaluations implemented
- Number of products launched outside of the organization
- Number of new innovations generated (may be products, processes, or policy improvements)
- Persistence of effort (e.g., continuity of activity, sequencing, and time-spent)
** note that research can be a trap. It’s easy to get stuck in over-researching something. While important as a product, it’s only useful if the research converts to real process or product efforts.
These are part of an Innovation Implementation Index that can help you to assess what innovation activities that you are undertaking and whether they are leading to an actual output or outcome.
By looking at not only what you do but how often and persistent your efforts are you will later be able to assess how your organization adopts, builds, and benefits from a culture of innovation.
Are you looking to build this with your organization, unit, or team? Contact us and we can help you build, assess, and sustain a culture of innovation in your organization.