I often think of the parable of “The Elephant and the Blind Men” when I get into discussions about measuring innovation. What are truths, what are the fallacies? The parable implies that one’s often subjective experience can be true on your need, but not necessarily the other persons view of their understanding of value.
You get, as the end result, a failure to account for other ‘beliefs’ or capture the real value and miss providing broader motivations to encourage the innovation elephant along.
Establishing the right metrics that motivate and yield the result you are looking for is sometimes a tough challenge. You should always start with the bigger picture, organizational needs and then design the metrics and cascade these throughout the organization.
This part of the series exploring the Innovation Work Mat
In a series of articles I will be looking at each of the seven components within the executive innovation work mat to raise questions to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations at different management levels determined to build a lasting innovation competence and structure.
Within this work mat series I’ve already offered some opening thoughts on the role of Governance and Innovation, and also the Environment for innovation matters to innovate followed by the innovating conditions for your Culture and Climate. This is the fourth article aimed at deeper engagement and understanding of the connected parts within innovation management on Metrics and Motivations.
Raising some initial thoughts here.
If we link metrics into the reward and compensation structure then we release all the energy, passion and anguish and these can serve in many contrary ways.
Linking compensation into all the competing motivations to manage and reward innovation activity is fraught with problems and can have many negative consequences.
Again my elephant comes back into view wandering around in your board room – it can disrupt everything as it charges after the results that it wants, trampling much that is good in its path. Today’s particular trend of focusing on short-term performance can limit innovation significantly and has innovation consequences.
Let’s look at metrics and motivations with a greater connected awareness.
At the end of the story on the elephant and the blind men, a wise man was passing; listened to all the different views of why no one could agree on what they thought the elephant was like. The wise man then replied “All of you are right; you were touching different parts of the elephant so the elephant has all the features as you all said”
Metrics and motivation can really make innovation happen
The value of the measures lies in resolving these eight different questions: 1) are they clear and simple 2) are they relevant to you and the central issues 3)are they timely in what can be achieved, 4)are they credible to the stakeholders involved 5) do they relate to the importance of the goals or trivial, 6) can we act upon them 7) are they consistent to the strategic message and aligned, and finally, 8) are all the investment in these measurements and motivators to capture and analyse, seem sensible and affordable, and lead to real impact in aiding innovation to achieve the goals required.
We do need to focus on the future innovating purpose surely?
The innovation links to any measurement system I would argue, should point towards the organizations strategic need and the innovation outcomes required. Within this there are broadly three parts: 1) knowing the organizations future orientated vision and general direction that innovation needs to take, 2) along with the strategic carriers in types, priorities, functions, the indicated mix of innovation activities and then 3) the growth gap that exposes the organizations challenges.so as to bridge these knowledge and resource gaps.
These can build innovation capacity today for future innovating outcomes as they are focused on future work to be done.
For me the output intention of the Integrated Executive Innovation Work Mat should be driving the business case for how innovation contributes and offers the what, where, when, and why within the communications for others to be mobilized into actions and build out build upon this strategic working document.
Then we set about communicating it down the organization
I have written before about the cascading effect and communicating value that can support this. Then our metrics begins to cascade down to bring people, the process, and the innovation design of inputs and outputs turn into successful alignment outcomes can come into play. I’ll broaden out my thinking on this area in the next post.
It is within the leadership of organizations to become intimately involved in what is important in innovation for their organization, otherwise we are back to the elephant and the blind men. All others simply believing they have the answer. Leadership needs to really engage in where it ‘expects’ innovation to yield its results and then ensures it links reward to this set of outcomes.
So what does success look like?
We should start with the ideals that our innovation activities should be pervasive, to be sustainable and we need to deliver clear business results mapped to known and potential unrecognised customer needs as our primary incentive points.
We need to lay out the building blocks to ‘group’ management and employee identification with what is innovation success. It can begin to motivate all the stakeholders involved. This gives us the opportunity to evaluate appropriate resources, provide the workable benefits related to learning, encourage identification of problems and encourage the identification of solutions and set about communicating to all involved the understanding of what success can look like.
Building the innovation metric and motivation scorecard there are hundreds of measures you could bring into anything; the skill is you need to find only the right few that focus upon the results you really need achieving. They need to somehow “talk to each other” so they are mutually reinforcing and all involved are pulling in a similar direction.
What gets measured should connect and matter – an example
I like one I came across some years back, by Cap Gemini, which firstly suggested you define what innovation was going to be about. Their example was “a robust creative process that turns out very distinct outputs with significant impact in the market place” and then worked on a scale for assessing the degree of innovativeness on a three-dimensional grid of Impact, Distinctiveness and Creative Process.
This then becomes the measuring and motivation barometer tied to the strategic need of an organization of what is expected out of innovation. That sort of complete picture can only come from the senior managements full committed to “wanting distinct outputs of significant impact in the market place”
I think Bain & Co offered also a really valuable performance measuring framework.
This framework offers a really good structure to begin to measure and link the organization. I think it can stimulate initial thinking well.
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There is a case for approaching measurement differently through the intangibles that make up most of our capital.
Measuring attempts need to take into account the many intangibles that make up innovation and make them tangible. Understanding the relationships within our intangibles allows groups to benchmark, diagnose, allocate resources, inform others and compensate employee’s efforts through their ongoing knowledge learning. The understanding of our intangibles is for me vital to crack.
Getting this right is increasingly important as the intellectual capitals are being recognized as the real value creation intersections. Establishing the metrics that focus on generating valuable innovation also helps extend ambition and future goals, pushing future innovation strategies as you grow in confidence and understanding of these dynamics.
To end we go back to avoid the story of the Elephant and the blind men.
By taking the integrated approach through the work mat, senior leaders can offer strategic guidelines into the measures and motivations, by laying out their beliefs and expectations from innovation. They can’t afford to leave this open-ended, just being hopeful, innovation activities need essential alignment.
If we continue to allow the ‘blind men’ to offer their separate opinions and then decide in isolation of the bigger picture, they ‘see’ only their part of the elephant.
I believe if you put in place that critical strategic innovation document, wrestled out of engaging across all the work mat parts, the metrics and motivators can ‘form’ around this strategic intent. This can drive innovation performance.
Seeing the whole picture is the team sitting on (at) the top, directing the innovation elephant along its journey to the destination where they want it to go. Metrics and motivations follow as the path is clearer to measure and travel. We need those wise men to clarify this.