Measuring the effectiveness of corporate innovation systems is a challenging endeavor. While “Innovation” or “Research & Development” may be the name of a department, strategically it is much more: It is an organizational competency. As such, it is a competency that often is expected to span the entire organization (and sometimes even beyond the organization’s boundaries.) Work that started as a seed of an idea in one department may eventually generate measurable results in another area, making “innovation accounting” tricky business. Further, for companies that typically measure simple, dashboard-type metrics, the shift to measuring the effectiveness of an innovation strategy is an uncomfortable one. While it may be straightforward to measure innovation costs, evaluation of the benefits of innovation is far from trivial. Innovation has a long time-horizon, ambiguous ownership, and organizations face the thorny issues of trying to measure incremental gains, or changes in how the company is perceived by customers or prospective employees.
A solution to this problem is to task an innovation leader with producing a regular report on the work that must be done throughout the company to deliver on the organization’s strategy or vision. The goal of this reporting is to continually justify the investment in innovation as a core competency. After all, innovation as a competency is a means to strategic execution, not the end. Rather than a dashboard-type report which measures the work done to date, it should be a discussion document that highlights the work going on as well as work still to be done. The key question that should be answered by reporting is not “how much value has innovation created?” but it should be more forward-looking: “What does the company require from innovation in order to achieve its goals?”
As a discussion document, the “straw man” report below is designed to generate the dialog required to make necessary tweaks in response to new marketplace signals. By providing holistic, near-continuous feedback to stakeholders, the organization can ensure that the best innovation investment decisions are being made to execute the strategy. With a flexible framework, organizations can use this template to fit various types of work, from experiments to bigger projects to cultural work to business unit-specific launches that require innovative thinking. Further, it shows not only what work is happening, but is clear about what work is NOT happening.
As with any innovation, take this template as a starting point and iterate it to fit your needs and the evolving needs of your organization.
Aaron Proietti is a Contributing Writer andFormer Innovation SVP and Chief Customer Advocate, Transamerica