Measuring innovation isn’t the same as measuring traditional business metrics like market size, gross margins, or return on investment.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t measure innovation success. You simply have to know which measuring sticks to use. Though good innovation management operates at all the different stages of the innovation process, the three innovation stages that are most amenable to measurement are the “ideation” stage of submitted ideas, the idea selection stage, and the implementation stage. To get up to speed quickly on these stages, have a look at IdeaScale’s Tracking Innovation infographic.
Submitted Ideas (Ideation)
Submitted ideas represent the widest part of the innovation funnel. Suppose your organization starts an innovation initiative asking employees to submit ideas for a new product or process. With luck, you’ll get a good participation rate. Typically, around 10 percent of people invited to submit ideas actually do so. Therefore, if you get a higher rate of participation, you can count that as a success. The more ideas people submit, the better the chances of identifying and developing a truly winning idea.
Unfortunately, you can’t try to develop every idea submitted, although you should give every idea submitted due consideration. Selected ideas are the ones that show promise, even though they will inevitably require an investment of time and resources. The number of ideas selected to continue developing will depend on several factors. The number of ideas from which you have to choose is one. Other factors include budget and time constraints, and having the necessary skill sets available for idea development and prototyping.
Typically, less than 10 percent of submitted ideas make it all the way through to implementation. You calculate your implementation rate by dividing the number of ideas implemented by the total number of ideas selected for development and then multiplying this by 100 to get a percentage.
Suppose your innovation initiative results in 100 ideas being submitted. Perhaps 20 of those will show enough promise to warrant investing time and resources. Not all 20 will make it through to implementation. Sometimes you don’t recognize serious hurdles to implementation until you’ve developed an idea further. Ultimately, if two of the selected ideas make it through development and prototyping to implementation, your implementation rate would be (20 ÷ 2) × 100, or 10 percent.
Ideation Rates and Implementation Rates
Both ideation rates and implementation rates are important. Low ideation rates don’t necessarily indicate that your innovation team is devoid of imagination. Rather, low ideation rates are often a consequence of innovation pushes that don’t result in any actual innovations, so people wonder why they should bother.
Healthy implementation rates indicate that your organization takes innovation seriously enough to implement people’s ideas. Not only will you benefit from the innovations you implement, you inspire people to participate in future innovation initiatives. After all, if they know their idea has a chance of seeing the light of day, they’re more likely to submit their ideas.
Innovation management, like business management in general, requires the use of metrics so you can see how well you are doing, but innovation management requires different metrics than other business processes.
While you can (and should) calculate ROI for innovations that are implemented, you should also measure how many ideas people submit during innovation initiatives, as well as the rate at which ideas are implemented. Doing this keeps you on an innovative track, ensures you will reap the benefits of innovation, and inspires future innovation initiatives. If you’re determined to put innovation to work for your organization, IdeaScale invites you to get the Innovation Starter Kit.