Measuring Innovation

In the late 70s, I worked at Bell Labs developing software for the Bell System. While most software engineers still gag at the thought of measuring software development, we were tracking cycle times, defects, and costs way back then. So I never understood why anyone would think that you can't measure innovation. You just need to tweak the metrics a little bit.

In Christopher Meyer's book, Relentless Growth-How Silicon Valley Innovation Strategies Can Work in Your Business, he devotes a whole chapter to measuring innovation! Here's an abstract of his recommendations. He suggests that the five classic results measures to watch are:

  1. Performance: How well does the total solution perform relative to requirements and the competition (Sounds like QFD doesn't it?)
  2. Quality: defects and delay
  3. Timing (i.e., speed to market): Internal development schedule (cycle time) and external market timing.
  4. Financials: cost, margins, and revenue expectations.
  5. Development costs: Specific project costs.

Here are some key measures of innovation used in Silicon Valley:

  • Cycle time
  • Percent of product/service tests passed
  • Turnover (personnel changes)
  • Specification or requirement changes (changes)
  • Percent reuse (how much tested stuff did you borrow?)
  • Percent new parts (how much stuff is untested)
  • Percent unique parts (potential integration difficulties)
  • Percent new vendors
  • Percent staffed to plan (under/over staffed)
  • Percent of time lost to other projects

Have you been putting off measuring your innovation processes? What ideas can you reuse from this list to get started now? What ideas do these give you for making immediate improvements in your innovation processes? What measures of innovation are you already using? Send them to

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