At first, glance, measuring innovation might seem as inexact as a Supreme Court Justice’s description of pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
One of the cornerstones of my Anticipatory Organization Model is the critical need to craft an environment that fosters innovation. That’s important, but it still begs the questions: How much innovation is “enough”? Further, how can you tell when your efforts to encourage innovation are producing the results you desire?
Fortunately, there are reliable benchmarks that can move the answers beyond an educated guess.
Employee Longevity is a Sign of an Innovative #Culture.
One Measurement: Wide Participation
Exponential technology advances have brought us to a unique tipping point, a period of transformational innovation—not mere change but game-changing digital disruption. That includes everything from how we “drive” semi-autonomous automobiles to chatbots, wearables, and next-generation smartphones, which are supplanting any number of other devices, including laptop computers and video cameras. This powerful trend is pervasive, no matter your organization or what industry you happen to be in.
That sort of constantly transformative environment underscores the value of continuous innovation—either you innovate or you fall further and further behind your more innovative competitor. Moreover, innovative thought and action shouldn’t just occur in corner offices or corridors of power; rather, innovation needs to be pursued by everyone in an organization, no matter what they do or their level of authority.
That’s just not an issue of being democratic. It’s a question of the sort of innovation that takes place, be it an industry game changer or one that improves the most routine everyday function or responsibility. By encouraging a broad approach, you can be sure that a sufficient level of innovation is occurring at all times.
Here’s one example of what I mean. As detailed in this article, an IT firm that was the subject of a recent study on innovation introduced what it called “idea portal.” This was an intranet-based tool accessible to most employees that helps track ideas from seed to implementation. As a result, employees formed small groups to devise and submit new product ideas as well as operational suggestions. This improved communication with client teams as well as the efficiency of workflow within specific departments.
Another Barometer: Is There Sufficient Time to Innovate?
An additional means to measure innovation involves a bit of backtracking. Simply put: If you want people within your organization to think about new ways to innovate, do you really give them the opportunity and motivation to do so?
As this article points out, you need time to pursue innovation. It can’t be a mere add-on to a workday or something that is crowbarred into an already overloaded schedule. It’s far too important to be considered optional or ancillary.
That means a real commitment in terms of time. In some organizations, employees are encouraged to earmark an hour a week or even an hour a day to explore innovative solutions to problems or new product or service ideas. Others, such as the one detailed in this piece, set aside a specific day once a year to discuss and build on ideas that can lead to all sorts of innovation.
Want to be confident that your organization is innovating enough? If there’s enough time designated just for that objective, and executives are both supporting and leading the process, chances are good the results are what you want.
Ultimately, It’s Results
At the end of the day, the question of whether you’re sufficiently pursuing innovation boils down to the sort of results you’re after. If you want to be as empirical as possible, there are formulas for quantifying returns on innovation investment, as this article explains. Some analysts have gone so far as to crunch the value of innovation into a company’s stock price.
But it doesn’t have to be quite so analytic. Take a look at your organization’s products and services. Are you introducing genuinely new ideas or merely rehashing old ones? Have a look at employee retention numbers. If you say you have policies that encourage innovation and, as a result, talented, motivated people are staying on board, that’s also a good sign that your commitment to innovation is real and not mere lip service.
The question of how much innovation is the “right” amount obviously varies from one organization to the next. But, in this era of ongoing digital disruption and change, it’s valuable to know your organization is committed to a sufficient level of ongoing innovation. Your success and even your survival may depend on it.