Monday, May 28, 2007

Measurement of Innovation

I found a reference for developing innovation metrics that I find useful. It breaks down factors that one needs to be innovative and gives suggestions for measuring those factors. Specifically, how to measure the resources, capability and leadership factors that might collectively be predictors of innovation.

Is innovation easier to measure than quality? Typically we measure what quality is not, and we assume that in the absence of proof of low quality, we have quality. This is apparent in software's measurement of defects: rate, density, resolution time, severity: these are measures of non-quality. I'm sure you've worked at places where that assumption turns out to be false. Perhaps quality itself is not measurable. Or perhaps it is simply that we can't definitely state what quality is, but only what it is not.

Can we make the same claim for innovation? If we measured a failure to innovate, would a low rating indicate a good innovation environment? It hurts my head to think about that. But it shares with quality the property that it is easier to measure what is not innovative. Whether something is innovative is subjective; there is no quantitative measure for whether it is or not. The reference above measures some things that are pretty concrete, such as the number of innovative ideas that become successful products. And I definitely agree that if you do not have enough resources, the right capability and leadership (culture) for innovation, it won't happen. At it's core though, how you decide whether something is innovative or not will have a huge effect on that metric, so I don't think the benchmarks they provide in the paper are really useful. But what you can use this for is trending over time in your organization as long as you can find some consistent way to evaluate the "innovativeness" of an idea.

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