IL Master Class: Does Measurement Kill Innovation?

In our recent Master Class on innovation metrics, we explored topics including:

  • The difference between “activity metrics” and “impact metrics”
  • Where to start, and how to evolve your measurement regime over time
  • The link between metrics and storytelling — sharing the anecdotal successes and impact of your innovation work
  • The tension between measuring things and developing a culture of risk-taking and creativity
  • Who does the work of actually gathering data — especially once projects are deployed outside of the innovation team?

The session was hosted by Mariko O’Neill, Managing Consultant at PA Consulting (pictured at right), with guest speakers Dan Seewald and Rick Waldron. Seewald is Senior Director of the Worldwide Innovation Group at Pfizer; Waldron is a former VP of Innovation Strategy at Nike.

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During the webcast, Seewald answered a participant’s question about the most important metric he tracked in the early days of the program at Pfizer, and the most important metric today. Seewald’s response:

“I would say that initially, the most influential was the dollars and cents on some projects that got pull-through, because it got the attention of some senior leaders. Today, the most influential bit is part of our engagement surveys — the number of people in the organization (within Pfizer, it’s over 80 percent) who believe that the work they have done or are doing with respect to our Dare to Try [innovation program] is positively impacting the way they operate everyday… It is fundamentally changing the way people are acting.”

Addressing the same question, Waldron said: “For us [at Nike], we started with showing speed and cost reduction. Can we process new ideas, and advance them or dispose of them, much faster than the rest of the business is doing, and can we do it at a cost that is much lower than the rest of the business? We definitely did that, and it delighted the CFO and the CEO and the other C-suite members on our innovation board. Then, [the question was] are you yielding anything? In that case, we had to show we were gaining customers, and gaining customers profitably, and there is a path to scale.”

“I find that there is a really nice tipping point when you are measuring a culture of innovation,” O’Neill said. “The activity or input measures actually start to decline a little, because those behaviors and activities that you deem innovative behaviors or activities actually just become behaviors or activities. Innovation as a program or as a culture becomes business-as-usual. That’s where you really need to move away from those activity-based pieces…and really start to hone in on ROI from specific experiments and projects that have scaled.”

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