Impact 2: How innovative are you? How do you know?

When thinking about assessing innovation most organisations think first of measuring outputs: How many new ideas have been implemented? How profitable have they been?  But as Richard points out in his guest post below, the culture of the organisation and the innovative potential of employees is also vital if you are to get good ideas coming up at all.  What do other organisations do about this?  Is it possible to benchmark it and make valuable interventions to improve the innovative capacity of your organisation?

Nesta’s Everyday Innovation (PDF, 1.1MB) report  looks at how to enhance innovative working amongst employees and I am afraid it does not have a one-size-fits-all solution, emphasising that ‘success of initiatives at enhancing innovation is highly dependent on organisational culture and therefore a multi-pronged approach is more likely to succeed’. The message is nevertheless that it is possible to measure the innovativeness of individuals, teams and organisations and that by doing so you can identify what changes you can make.

For example, one major building products firm made a commitment to become more innovative.  They audited the innovation potential of their senior managers and found that one of the reasons new ideas were not getting as much traction as they wanted was that the people on the selection team were all very experienced engineers but not highly motivated for change.

Motivation for change is one of the key characteristics of an innovative individual and can be measured.  Thus by identifying individuals who were more open to change and placing them in the selection team, more new ideas got through and have been implemented.

One Innovation Director of a large corporate organisation I know works hard to engage staff in innovation.  What she measures is the impact of her work on culture and she does this in a few simple ways:

  1. People survey and feedback from clients – this has been done annually over 12 years and some of the questions relate to innovation and thus can be used to identify trends;
  2. How many people are on the waiting list wanting to join the innovation champions training and the seniority of those people;
  3. After any meeting where she is assisting with innovation she asks the person who called the meeting three questions: Did what was done differ from what you would have achieved at a normal meeting? Would they recommend such an approach to others? and Would they do it again?

Another charity innovation manager looks at how many ideas come into their ideas scheme, how many people attend quarterly innovation events where attendance is voluntary, how many people sign up for training.

The message is, you need to do what works for you; keep it as simple but as smart as possible – think about what you really want to know and then just measure that.

Below are some further suggestions for assessment of innovation in your organisation.

Innovation Matters provides an Innovation Challenge on pp14-15 to help you benchmark your organisation’s innovativeness.

The Department of Business Innovation and Skills offers online innovation benchmarking tools which you might want to have ago with to get you started.

If you want to look at your organisation’s innovative working in more detail you could look at Appendix C in Everyday Innovation (PDF, 1.1MB) which provides a diagnostic framework for innovative working in organisations.

For those really committed to grasping the innovation nettle with both hands, psychometric testing of staff, team and organisational innovativeness such as the Innovation Potential Indicator is available.  I would caution only using something like this with the advice and assistance of an organisational psychologist who knows how to use and interpret the test and can then advise you on what interventions to make.

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Posts written by guests who have contributed to NCVO projects and events.

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